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Skull-shaped comet passes earth on Halloween

A so-called "dead comet" has passed within 500,000 kilometers (310,000 miles) of earth on Halloween. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said the celestial object eerily resembled a skull.

A so-called "dead comet" has passed within 500,000 kilometers (310,000 miles) of earth on Halloween. The US

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

(NASA) said the celestial object eerily resembled a skull. The distance is roughly 1.3 times the distance between earth and the moon.

According to US space agency NASA, a 400-meter-long celestial object passed earth on Friday, coming within close proximity of mankind's planet with reference to astronomical distances.

"The large space rock that will zip past Earth this Halloween is mot likely a dead comet that, fittingly, bears an eerie resemblance to a skull," NASA said in a statement on its website.

Scientists originally believed the space rock was an asteroid, naming it Asteroid 2015 TB145 after discovering it on October 10, 2015.

Dead comet?

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, the space rock is likely a "dead comet that has shed its volatiles after numerous passes around the sun."

Meanwhile, program scientist at for the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) Kelly Fast said though evidence points to the object being a dead comet, it still resembled skull.

"The IRT data may indicate that the object might be a dead comet, but in the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby," said Fast, who also serves as acting program manager at NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program.

'Daily watch'

However, not all scientists were entranced with the Halloween-induced metaphors.

Detlef Koschny, an astronomer at the

European Space Agency

(ESA), said that the late discovery of the celestial object demonstrates the need to actively surveil space.

"That such a large object, capable of doing significant damage if it were to strike our planet, was discovered only 21 days before closest approach demonstrates the necessity for keeping daily watch of the night sky," said Koschny in a statement, according to Reuters news agency.

ls/bw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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