(CBS SF) — An asteroid the size of the Empire State Building is preparing to zip past Earth on Halloween giving scientists at NASA something besides candy to gorge on.
But Earthlings have nothing to fear. The asteroid designated as 2015 TB145 will fly by at a safe distance on Oct. 31 at 10:05 a.m. PDT.
“The trajectory of 2015 TB145 is well understood,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than about 300,000 miles — 480,000 kilometers or 1.3 lunar distances. Even though that is relatively close by celestial standards, it is expected to be fairly faint, so night-sky Earth observers would need at least a small telescope to view it.”
The asteroid, nicknamed the “Great Pumpkin” and “Spooky,” will be a special treat for the researchers who discovered it earlier this month at University of Hawaii’s NASA-funded Near-Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program.
“The close approach of 2015 TB145 at about 1.3 times the distance of the moon’s orbit, coupled with its size, suggests it will be one of the best asteroids for radar imaging we’ll see for several years,” said Lance Benner, of JPL, who leads NASA’s asteroid radar research program. “We plan to test a new capability to obtain radar images with two-meter resolution for the first time and hope to see unprecedented levels of detail.”
The gravitational force of the asteroid is so small, scientists say it will have no effect on the moon or the Earth’s tides or tectonic plates.
This will be the largest object to pass by until August 2027 when asteroid 1999 AN10, about 2,600 feet in size, is scheduled to approach about one lunar distance from Earth.
Nicole Jones is a digital producer for CBS San Francisco. Follow her musings @nicjonestweets