Skull-shaped asteroid returns in 2018 after initial Halloween flyby

On Halloween 2015, an asteroid shaped eerily similar to a human skull flew past Earth without issue. The timing was a fun coincidence, perhaps, but it won't be the last time we see this particular space rock. Researchers say the Skull Asteroid is destined to fly by Earth again next year, doing so a little later than the first time around: in November 2018.

The asteroid was first discovered by researchers in mid-October 2015. It flew by a couple weeks later on Halloween, doing so at a relatively close distance: about 1.3 times that of the moon. This gave researchers a chance to snap shots of the space rock, and that's when one feature became apparent — in the right lighting, the asteroid greatly resembles a human skull.

The similarities are eerie, including the general skull shape, the location and shape of the two "eyes," plus a nose and the tapering for the jaw. The asteroid's Halloween timing helped underscore the creepiness of the entire thing.

Researchers estimate that the skull-shaped asteroid, which is officially named 2015 TB145, is somewhere between 625m to 700m in length — that is, 2,050ft to 2,296ft. NASA got in on the action the first time around, managing to get a shot of the rock using the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia.

While the first image in this article shows an artist's interpretation of what the asteroid looks like, the second image, above, is an actual photo of the 2015 TB145 asteroid. Skull-like indeed. The asteroid will shoot past Earth at a much farther distance next year, but researchers have time to prepare for that event, and they plan to learn more about the rock when it happens.