NEO Halloween Show — And Beyond

October 30, 2015

An encounter too-close of any kind.
According to NASA: ‘Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood.’
Quaint — and one of those NEOs is scheduled to give us a close-bypass tomorrow afternoon, and it’s a fairly-big piece of space rock.

icarus-asteroid-pass-earth.ecFrom the Guardian last week:

The asteroid, nicknamed “the Great Pumpkin” and “Spooky” but technically known as TB145, is an estimated 1,300ft (400 meters) wide – 20 times bigger than the meteorite that screamed across the Russian sky and exploded over Chelyabinsk in 2013, shattering windows with shock waves and debris that injured more than a thousand people.

TB145 will be traveling at 22 miles-per-second or 78,000 mph, when it whips past us, supposedly.

(Illustration found here).

Although the NEO population has been somehow figured to number in the millions, only 13,000 have been detected so far, since science shit got smarter, or whatever.
Scary way-more than ‘spooky’ as astronomers from NASA’s Near Earth Object Program didn’t even spot TB145 until Oct. 10, just three weeks ago, apparently the asteroid had to get in range of large survey telescopes in order to really figure it out, and so forth.
Further from the Guardian:

TB145 has an unusually oblong orbit, in an area searched less often than the flat-disc plane on which the solar system is arranged.
TB145 slices through that plane at a 40-degree angle.
Now it’s been spotted, the center’s Paul Chodas said its trajectory was “well understood”.
TB145 last passed by in 1975, when the Earth was at a different place in its orbit around the sun and Nasa’s surveys of the sky were far less comprehensive.
Lance Benner, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement: “Such a unique orbit, along with its high encounter velocity, raises the question of whether it may be some type of comet.”
Although TB145 will hurtle by “relatively close by celestial standards”, Chodas said in the statement “it is expected to be fairly faint, so night-sky Earth observers would need at least a small telescope to view it”.

Of course, a “Deep Impact” moment:

Had the asteroid been on a collision course with Earth, three-weeks’ notice “would have been too late to do anything about it”, Chodas told Popular Science.
“An asteroid of this size is really difficult to deflect with only 20 days’ warning,” he said.

A medium-sized chunk of rock and ice like TB145 could cause a catastrophe on Earth – “continental-scale devastation”, in Chodas’ words – if not quite a global disaster on the scale of the six-mile-wide asteroid that is blamed for the death of the dinosaurs.
Medium-sized asteroids hit the earth once every 100,000 years, according to Nasa’s estimates.

And the assurance at the end:

For now, Nasa has simply assured the public that the skies are clear of danger, including from TB145.
“There are no known credible impact threats to date,” a statement said.
“Only the ongoing and harmless in-fall of meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up in the atmosphere.”

Hopefully, the big deal on Sunday will be the expected rain showers.

Beyond this weekend, still skyward and NEO-influenced, a deep-space thingy is scheduled to hit earth in a couple of weeks, and no one seems to know WTF!
From Popular Mechanics on Monday:

Earlier this month, an object called WT1190F? was spotted on a trajectory that will bring it right to Earth.
It came here from far beyond the moon, and its hollow nature and cylindrical shape suggest that it’s human-made and not an asteroid or meteorite.
It won’t cause any major problems on the ground, but there’s still something troubling: Astronomers don’t know what the heck it is, or why it’s only now coming up on their radar.
Its trajectory is pretty easily understood.
It’s headed for an area of space over the Indian Ocean, where it will re-enter the atmosphere at 2:20 p.m. EDT on November 14.
Most of it will burn up, according to Nature, but any leftover debris will make sea-fall about 40 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka.
“It’s coming in fast and will get very hot – it’s possible a few dense parts of say a rocket engine will survive to impact the ocean,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in an email.
What’s not understood right now, though, is what the object is.
It’s all but certainly human-made, and it has an unusual elliptical orbit that takes it twice as far out as the distance of the moon, and something bothered it enough to come back down to Earth.
It’s likely a rocket stage or panelling, as it’s only three to seven feet long, and may have been up there for a long, long time.
It could even be a piece of debris from the Apollo missions.
McDowell says precovery images place the object back at least to 2012, which may have been around when its orbit changed due to perturbations from the moon. Its previous orbit isn’t known.

According to CBS News, the object’s impact is actually supposedly set for Friday, Nov. 13 — now that’s a silly-spooky scenario…

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