Small asteroid disintegrates over Southern Africa

Artist's concept of a near-earth asteroid.                  NASA  JPL-CalTech

On Saturday morning, the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, caught a glimpse of an asteroid racing toward Earth.

The astroboffins only managed to get a couple of readings on the asteroid's trajectory, and thought it would strike somewhere in southern Africa, the Indian Ocean, or possibly New Guinea.

The space rock was very faint, with observations suggesting it was just 6 feet (2 meters) across - small enough to burn up completely during its fiery plunge through the atmosphere, NASA officials said.

'This was a much smaller object than we are tasked to detect and warn about, ' said Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA Headquarters. "However, this real-world event allows us to exercise our capabilities and gives some confidence our impact prediction models are adequate to responde to the potential impact of a larger object".

After scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey spotted the asteroid, they relayed their observations to scientists at the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Those data were passed along to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies where an automated program known as Scout confirmed the impact trajectory.

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First, the asteroid crashed into the atmosphere over land, where people could witness it disintegrating as a bright fireball in the sky. If one of them comes hurtling to Earth, we could have only days, if that, between when it is spotted and when it hits-and that result would be more devastation than dazzling.

However, since the asteroid was determined to be so small, no further impact alerts were issued by NASA.

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.

"It is also only the second time that the high probability of an impact was predicted well ahead of the event itself", said Chodas.

The impact of the asteroid treated residents of Botswana, in southern Africa, to an impressive light show.

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The first event of this kind was the impact of asteroid 2008 TC3, which lit up the predawn sky above Northern Sudan on October 7, 2008.

A boulder-sized asteroid on a collision course with Earth reportedly disintegrated in the atmosphere, lighting up the sky over Botswana, Africa, according to NASA.

Smaller objects are fainter and more hard to spot in a large sky, though efforts like the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey are increasingly able to search a wider field of sky to find these somewhat elusive objects.

The advantage I had was I saw it in colour.

A 2014 asteroid was discovered by Kowalski just a few hours before entering over the Atlantic, with little time for tracking.

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