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Science and Innovations

'Spooky' Asteroid on Course for Halloween Flyby

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NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Earthlings will get a visitor from outer space this Halloween as an asteroid makes a close approach.

The space rock was discovered earlier this month by astronomers in Hawaii. It will fly past Earth tomorrow at a distance just beyond the orbit of the Moon.

NASA says there’s no threat of an impact. The asteroid, nicknamed “Spooky,” is moving fast – zipping along at almost 80,000 miles per hour. It’s also got an unusual orbit, which may be how it escaped detection until now. It’s too faint to see without a telescope, but stargazers can look for it moving through the constellation Orion tonight.

And get ready with the costume award – NASA scientists speculate “Spooky” might actually be a comet in disguise. They’ll bounce radio signals off the object as it passes to learn more about it. 

Astronomers say there might be millions of near-Earth objects, but only 13,271 have been found so far. NASA-funded survey programs track asteroids that might one day present a hazard to Earth, including the Catalina Sky Survey and Spacewatch in Tucson and the Spitzer Near-Earth Asteroid Team in Flagstaff.

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Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech
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The trajectory of the Halloween asteroid.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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