Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Asteroid on Collision Course With Earth Spotted Just Hours Before Impact

An astroid in the sky over Botswana The footage was captured on a farmer's CCTV Credit Barend Swanepoel
Elijah Vega | 05 June, 2018, 23:56

2018 LA was first detected by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., which is funded by NASA and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Although there was not enough tracking data to make precise predictions ahead of time, a swath of possible locations was calculated stretching from Southern Africa, across the Indian Ocean, and onto New Guinea.

A small asteroid slammed into Earth's atmosphere on June 2 just a few hours after it was discovered racing toward the planet, according to NASA.

After scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey spotted the asteroid, they relayed their observations to scientists at the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The asteroid was discovered on Saturday with researchers calculating its trajectory would result in an impact to earth. It shows the fiery remnants of an asteroid disintegrating in Earth's atmosphere over Botswana on Saturday night.

But in a nice bit of detective work, two additional observations were obtained by the ATLAS asteroid survey that were used by the Scout system to narrow down the predicted impact points in southern Africa.

Astronomers know of thousands of asteroids whizzing around in space, some of which are known to cross Earth's orbit from time to time.

But its extreme speed travelling at over 37 times the speed of sound meant that it was literally just two seconds from hitting South Africa when it vapourised.

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At the time of its discovery, 2018 LA was nearly as close to Earth as the orbit of the moon, "although that was not initially known", stated NASA officials.

He said: 'The advantage I had was I saw it in colour and it was not like on the cameras.

"The discovery of asteroid 2018 LA is only the third time that an asteroid has been discovered to be on an impact trajectory", Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in the statement.

The asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February 2013, for example, was estimated at around 20 metres wide, and the air blast produced by its explosion managed to shatter windows throughout the city.

And while 2018 LA was discovered shortly before it arrived at our atmosphere, there are numerous organizations searching for potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) that could seriously impact life. The first was 2008 TC3, which was detected 15 hours before it broke up over northern Sudan on October 7, 2008.

A 2008 asteroid was spotted by Kowalski 19 hours in advance and measured 13 feet, or 4 meters. The second was 2014 AA, discovered only a few hours before it impacted over the Atlantic Ocean on January 1, 2014.

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