Halloween might prove to be an especially scary time for residents of planet earth this year. A massive asteroid is heading our way and is set to pass Earth at "unusually high" speeds on Oct. 31st. But what if it veers off course and actually hits us?
According to a report released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on Oct. 10th, scientists discovered a huge asteroid they called 2015 TB145, which they say probably has a diameter of about 320 meters. On Oct. 31st at 1:12 p.m. ET, the asteroid is set to approach Earth with an "unusually high" encounter velocity of 35 kilometers per second, coming within about 490,000 kilometers of our beautiful home. This will be the closest approach by a known object this large since Jul. 2006, and it won't happen again until 2027. "The flyby presents a truly outstanding scientific opportunity to study the physical properties of this object," NASA's optimistic report states.
So is there any reason to believe we might all be doomed? NASA's report describes the asteroid's orbit as "extremely eccentric," which doesn't seem very reassuring.
The Independent reports that Earth may be facing a period of meteor showers of the type that led to mass extinctions over the last 260-million years. "There is evidence that the comet activity has been high for the last one to two million years, and some comet orbits are perturbed, so we may be in a shower at the present time," NYU geologist Michael Rampino told the publication.
There was a similar freak-out this summer as rumors bubbled that an asteroid was set to hit Earth between Sept. 15th and 28th. NASA dismissed these fears of destruction with an Aug. 19th statement by Paul Chodas, manager of the Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "There is no scientific basis -- not one shred of evidence -- that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates," Chodas said.
"Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth. In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century."
Of course, that statement was made long before the discovery of 2015 TB145. This Halloween, it might be prudent to party like there's no tomorrow, just in case.