It’s been in the news lately, and now the Halloween asteroid gets a themed name for the occasion that is arguably a lot more catchy than a string of letters and numbers.
- The Halloween asteroid, 2015 TB145, has been unofficially nicknamed “Great Pumpkin”
- It will pass by Earth on October 31st, but will be harmless to our planet
- Only 5% of asteroids have gained names beyond their numbered titles
The nickname “Great Pumpkin” has been attributed to the most recently discovered asteroid that will fly by Earth. While NASA mentioned the holiday-themed name in a recent news feature, it was stated that, for now, it will remain unofficial. On the record, the “Great Pumpkin” will still be called 2015 TB145, which considerably less memorable, but more practical.
Not all asteroids have the privilege of getting named by their discoverers. Most of them remain numbered, usually through a combination that indicates the time of their discovery. And there are thousands of them out there, hurdling through space. Even so, it’s believed that barely a fraction of them have been tracked.
Only 5% of them get a more proper name beyond their official designation. It can take a few years as it’s one of the requirements that astronomers understand its exact orbit first. After that, they’re still tied to a number of conditions and rules, to be judged by the International Astronomical Union, through their Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature.
It wasn’t long ago when discoverers were required to attribute names from Greek mythology. However, there’s only so many of them, so the rules have relaxed a little. Now, there are more choices, but the basic requirements stand.
The name should be 16 or less characters long, preferably one word, and should not be commercial, offensive, or tied to any sort of political activity. If anything, this could compared to the password requirements of many of today’s email account providers.
The “Great Pumpkin” doesn’t truly fall well into any of those categories, but seems to have nonetheless remained its unofficial nickname. It may never even receive a different name than 2015 TB145. That matter is up for its discoverers to decide, the astronomers at the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS-1, provided they wish to suggest a name within the rules and present it in front of a committee.
The Halloween asteroid will be reportedly flying past Earth at a relatively close distance of 300,000 miles on October 31st, at 1:05 P.M. ET. NASA has confirmed that it will indeed be harmless to the population, and will not even be visible to the naked eye. However, its discovery does brings awareness for the necessity of the monitoring of asteroids.
The “Great Pumpkin” has a significant enough size to have caused devastating consequences if it collided with our planet. And, regardless of this unsettling fact, it was discovered only 21 days before it approached Earth.
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