Credit: Via NASA/JPL

Just in time for “Asteroid Day” on June 29th!

A small asteroid discovered on Saturday disintegrates hours later over Southern Africa

As noted in a JPL release: “A boulder-sized asteroid designated 2018 LA was discovered Saturday morning, June 2, and was determined to be on a collision course with Earth, with impact just hours away. Because it was very faint, the asteroid was estimated to be only about 6 feet (2 meters) across, which is small enough that it was expected to safely disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere. Saturday’s asteroid was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, located near Tucson and operated by the University of Arizona.”

Match up

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

Reports of a bright fireball above Botswana, Africa early Saturday evening match up with the predicted trajectory for the asteroid.

Bright fireball

This object penetrated Earth’s atmosphere at the high speed of 10 miles per second (38,000 mph, or 17 kilometers per second and disintegrated several miles above the surface, creating a bright fireball that lit up the evening sky.

Infrasound data collected just after the impact clearly detected the event from one of the listening stations deployed as part of the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The signal is consistent with an atmospheric impact over Botswana.

The event was witnessed by a number of observers and was caught on webcam video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnBvSNYy-EY

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