July 20, 2018

An asteroid turned into a blazing fireball over Africa last weekend

07 June 2018, 06:58 | Edward Lowe

An asteroid turned into a blazing fireball over Africa last weekend

An asteroid turned into a blazing fireball over Africa last weekend

A small asteroid had been discovered on Saturday and disintegrated over Africa hours later, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Scientists determined the asteroid was headed directly for Earth, but because it measured just 6 feet across, scientists knew it would quickly disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere. The officer added, "The modern facilities, capabilities, and the models for impact prediction have potential to predict the impact of larger objects".

This weekend, NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) and the IAU Minor Planet Center confirmed that an asteroid (named 2018 LA) was headed our way just hours before it struck the atmosphere above Botswana.

On Saturday morning, the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, caught a glimpse of an asteroid racing toward Earth. This is just the 3 time that the scientists detected an asteroid emerging towards the Earth and having a direct collision event with it.

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Researchers around the world are working to track Near Earth Objects, more commonly called NEOs, but the work involves large asteroids that could cause major issues for the planet. According to NASA, the impact created a bright fireball in the sky at about 6:44 p.m. local Botswana time (12:44 p.m. ET). "It is also only the second time that the impact location was predicted well ahead of the event itself". Tracking systems narrowed it down to southern Africa.

Astronomers were limited by tracking data, but predicted the asteroid's trajectory would see it enter the atmosphere between South Africa and New Guinea.

It was much smaller than the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013, which was an estimated 60 feet wide.

Regarding the late detection of the asteroid, the CAS explained that because it is a small rock that can be dark, and that because it does not emit its own light, an asteroid like 2018 LA only becomes visible when it is already very close.

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The space agency said that impacts like these are not always witnessed. However, the asteroid of 2008 was detected nineteen hours before it struck the sky over Sudan.

The asteroid was discovered using the automated telescopes of the Catalina Sky Survey when he was still beyond the orbit of the moon.

In 2008, an asteroid measuring 4 metres was spotted 19 hours in advance. Luckily, 2014 AA struck over the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles away from the nearest landmass, Sky & Telescope reported at the time.

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