Published: Wed, June 06, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Small asteroid disintegrates over Southern Africa


NASA's asteroid trackers quickly determined the six foot wide rock was not large enough to pose a serious threat to Earth.

The asteroid, dubbed 2018 LA, was discovered out near the moon's orbit, aiming straight for Earth.

This is the incredible moment a high-speed asteroid the size of a vehicle explodes over the South African wilderness just seconds before impact. The same asteroid hunter, Richard Kowalski, made all three discoveries.

An employee of the Office of planetary defense, NASA Lindley Johnson said that it was a much smaller space object that they need to detect and prevent.

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.

Generally speaking, NASA has a pretty good idea of which asteroids are hanging out in Earth's neighborhood.

The asteroid's fiery demise was caught on camera by spectators, who later posted their footage to YouTube.

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The two previous events, over the Sudan in 2008 on October 7, 2008, and over the Atlantic Ocean on January 1, 2014, were also first noticed by the Catalina Sky Survey.

Small asteroids are hard to detect and impact Earth more often than many may realize, according to Peter Brown, a physics and astronomy professor at Western University who specializes in meteor science. There was instant chaos amongst the people as it indicated a big disaster if the asteroid had hit the surface of the earth. In one video, from a farm between Ottosdal and Hartebeesfontein in northwest South Africa, the asteroid appears as a brilliant streak that flares up into a spectacular fireball on the horizon.

Trajectory path of ZLAF9B2 (2018 LA) plotted across Oceania, the Indian Ocean and Africa.

On Oct. 7,2008, the 13-foot (4 m) asteroid 2008 TC3 hit Earthover northern Sudan. This is a third such instance of tracking small asteroids with impact trajectory.

The ATLAS asteroid survey obtained two additional observations hours before impact, which were used by Scout to confirm the impact would occur, and narrowed down the predicted location to southern Africa. The blazing fireball sent meteorite hunters scrambling to find fragments of the rare space rock. Luckily, 2014 AA struck over the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles away from the nearest landmass, Sky & Telescope reported at the time.

NASA relies on a patchwork of observers to track what it calls near-Earth asteroids, the agency explained in a video.

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