On October 28, 1937, German astronomer Karl Reinmuth (1892-1979) accidentally photographed the long trail of a fast-moving asteroid. Two nights later, this asteroid passed to within 460,000 miles of the Earth. Reinmuth named it Hermes, after the Olympian god of boundaries and travelers. Interestingly, Hermes disappeared after only five nights of observation; it was lost and many believed it would never be seen again.
Since the vast majority of asteroids (so far numbering over 1.5 million) congregate between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, astronomers at that time felt that Hermes’ very close approach was an outstanding exception. We have since learned, however, those asteroids make very close approaches to Earth with far greater frequency than what was once thought.
A 2015 Close Encounter
One asteroid came close to Earth on Halloween 2015 (almost exactly 78 years to the day that asteroid Hermes brushed less than half a million miles from us). It passed exceedingly close (310,000 miles) and even closer (170,000 miles) to the Moon, and will pass our way again on November 11, 2018. Back in 2015, the asteroid’s very close approach to our planet made it a big news story.
This asteroid is back in the news again because it will make another “close encounter” with Earth. But this time it’s going to be more than 77 times farther away from us (24 million miles) than it was 3 years ago. At that distance, the asteroid will not pose any threat at all to our planet, and will not be visible at all, except in very large telescopes.
Why The Scary Name?
Some are calling the asteroid the “Halloween Death Comet” but scientists aren’t quite sure why. Could it be because of the time of year it will pass by Earth? Some are speculating it’s because initial reports claimed the asteroid looked like a human skull. Turns out it’s much rockier in appearance than initially thought. Its official name is 2015 TB145.
How Big Is This Asteroid?
The asteroid is estimated to be roughly 1,300 feet (400 meters) across. By comparison, the meteorite that exploded in the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013, was only about 20 meters wide.
The next close approach is reported to be in 2088, at which time the asteroid will come within 5.4 million miles of Earth.
Cover image is not of the actual asteroid.