Don’t panic, because it had happened approximately 300,000 miles away. The dead comet had already flown past the Earth, Joinfo.com reports with the reference to the Los Angeles Times.
The mysterious comet had hurtled past our planet at 10 a.m. on Halloween morning.
At first scientists thought that the object was a huge asteroid with a funky orbit. Eventually, they have discovered it is more likely a dead comet that has shed its volatile materials after several turns around the sun.
The new measurements reveal that the extraterrestrial body is as dark as printer toner and generally round in shape. It also appears to be larger than previously thought. Early estimates suggested the space rock was about 1,300 feet in diameter, but in fact it is closer to 2,000 feet long, or about the length of 5 1/2 football fields.
The black areas that look sort of like eye sockets in the radar image above are likely pits or craters that may have been sculpted over time by impacts or the melting of ices, said Amy Mainzer, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“Who would have thought that this would have come with its own costume?” she said.
Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist at the Planetary Institute in Tuscon, said one clue that the body might be a dormant comet rather than an asteroid is that it reflects 6% of light from the sun.
“While here on Earth we think that is pretty dark, it is brighter than a typical comet which reflects only 3 to 5% of the light,” he said in a statement. “That suggests it could be cometary in origin –- but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet.”
As reported earlier, a strange crater was spotted by the scientists from NASA on Charon, the Pluto’s largest moon. This crater, informally named Organa, and the surrounding area, when studied in infrared spectrum, appear to be covered of frozen ammonia. Organa caught scientists’ attention as they were studying the highest-resolution infrared compositional scan of it. The infrared spectrum of nearby Skywalker crater, for example, is similar to the rest of Charon’s craters and surface, with features dominated by ordinary water ice.
“This is a fantastic discovery,” said Bill McKinnon, deputy lead for the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team from Washington University in St. Louis. “Concentrated ammonia is a powerful antifreeze on icy worlds, and if the ammonia really is from Charon’s interior, it could help explain the formation of Charon’s surface by cryovolcanism, via the eruption of cold, ammonia-water magmas.”