That creepy skull asteroid will be a Halloween miss

A spooky-looking asteroid won't be knocking on Earth's door and shouting "trick or treat."

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Great Pumpkin asteroid looks vaguely skull-like in this radar image from the Arecibo Observatory.


Asteroid 2015 TB145 has been nicknamed "death comet" and a "Halloween asteroid." Even NASA called it the "Great Pumpkin." It's coming back into Earth's neighborhood, but it's not going to scare anybody for Halloween.

The asteroid got famous in 2015 when it made a close approach to Earth on Oct. 31. The National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico picked up some fuzzy radar images of the asteroid as it closed in. Those images made it look like a human skull with gaping eyes and an empty nose socket.

Stories from the original 2015 flyby have re-emerged on social media ahead of Halloween. While 2015 TB145 was a perfect astronomical treat in 2015, its return for 2018 is at a much greater distance from Earth and won't actually happen until Nov. 11.

A fresher set of radar images taken just before the 2015 approach showed the asteroid looking a lot less skull-like. But that's not a knock on the space object. It's still plenty fascinating even if it doesn't look like a Halloween haunt. 

Scientists determined 2015 TB145 is likely a dead comet that measures about 2,000 feet (600 meters) in diameter.

The skull asteroid zipped by Earth three years ago at a close but safe distance of around 300,000 miles (480,000 kilometers), giving scientists plenty to look at. The November passing will be at a distance of well over 24 million miles (38 million kilometers). That's not even remotely scary.  

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