Skull-shaped comet of the dead on its way to Earth

2015 TB145
Artist's impression of 2015 TB145. Photo credit: JA Peñas/SINC

Astronomers are preparing for the return of a skull-shaped asteroid that's so dark, it barely reflects sunlight.

2015 TB145, as it's known, was first spotted in 2015 when it flew by Earth just a bit further away than the moon - on October 31, Halloween, no less.

Despite being roughly 650m across, it wasn't spotted before then because it only reflects about 5 percent of sunlight that hits it.

"This means that it is very dark, only slightly more reflective than charcoal," said Pablo Santos-Sanz from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, who suspects it might be an extinct comet.

But that's not the only dark secret astronomers uncovered. Radar imagery of the rock, nicknamed the 'Great Pumpkin', showed it looks remarkably like a human skull.

Don't expect it to bring death and destruction when it arrives in November however - it's expected to pass about 105 times further away than the moon. Good thing too, because it's travelling at 126,000 km/h and would make a crater 10km wide, asteroid impact expert Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, said in 2015.

Oddly enough, Earth's next close encounter with the 'Great Pumpkin' will come on Halloween 2088.