Physics

The Death Comet is Coming, Again

The skull shaped comet will be making an appearance in the night sky in November.

It seems that the hype around Halloween this year has been amplified by ten. With Halloween decorations and costumes hitting some stores as early as July and damn near every social media “influencer” proclaiming that Spooky Season is upon us, it has been hard to miss the Samhain spirit in the air.

But then October 31st comes and goes, and all is gone. Except for those that celebrate Día de Los Muertos, spooky season is over and prepping for Thanksgiving commences. But this year there will be a post-Halloween macabre treat and all you have to do to enjoy it is to look up at the sky. 2015 TB145, also known as the Death Comet, will be passing by Earth on November 11th.

So why is 2015 TB145 referred to as the Death Comet? It is not just a cute monokier, the comet is literally believed by scientists to be dead because all of the ice on the comet has been melted away by repeated close encounters with the Sun and all that remains is the rock underneath.

“We found that the object reflects about 6 percent of the light it receives from the Sun. That is similar to fresh asphalt, and while here on Earth we think that is pretty dark, it is brighter than a typical comet which reflects only 3 to 5 percent of the light,” said scientist Vishnu Reddy, in a 2015 NASA news release. “That suggests it could be cometary in origin but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet.”

The appearance of the comet also plays a part in the name, when observed in a telescope 2015 TB145 exactly resembles a skull, thus increasing the creepy Halloween-ish vibe exponentially.

The Death Comet was actually first discovered on Oct. 10th, 2015, by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS-1), and thus given its other Halloween-themed monokier, the great Pumpkin Comet. But NASA was still tracking it on October 31st as it again flew by Earth.

 

 

 

 

By: Alexandria Addesso Kean Univesity, New Jersey.

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