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Small asteroid spotted Saturday, disintegrates over Africa

07 June 2018

An asteroid on a collision course with Earth broke up after entering the atmosphere over southern Africa on Saturday just eight hours after it was discovered.

The tiny space rock was estimated to be only 6 feet (2 meters) long.

"This was a much smaller object than we are tasked to detect and warn about", said NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson.

Also, the scientist says that such examples are illustrative of the work of NASA: "This is a real event allows you to test our capabilities and gives some condence that our models predict collisions suited to respond to the potential 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.

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He said this asteroid was seen by the Catalina Sky Survey, a program funded by NASA, in Arizona. This is only the third time an asteroid has been spotted with an impact trajectory.

Hours later, it hit Earth travelling at 38,000 mph and caused a huge fireball to appear in the sky above Botswana, Africa.

The dinosaurs were blasted into extinction 66 million years ago when a far bigger asteroid hit Earth but for the African wildlife living below this asteroid they had a lucky escape. Later, the estimation was narrowed to only southern Africa by the help of tracking systems.

But, also a small space object has been the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk, in Russian Federation, back in 2013, and caused a shockwave that blew thousands of windows into pieces, causing small injuries in residents. The smallest asteroids like 2018 LA are the hardest to spot, but also the least likely to do any damage. That asteroid was spotted 19 hours before impact, enough time for scientists to plot a precise trajectory for the falling space rock.

"Asteroids come in all sizes, larger ones can be 1,000 kilometers across, about 1/3 the size of the moon", Astronomer from Brown University Ian Dell'Antonio said. The first was 2008 TC3, which was detected 15 hours before it broke up over northern Sudan on October 7, 2008. Luckily, 2014 AA struck over the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles away from the nearest landmass, Sky & Telescope reported at the time. The Catalina Sky Survey has been responsible for discovering all three of these small asteroids on impact trajectories, and all on the watch of the same observer, Richard Kowalski.

Small asteroid spotted Saturday, disintegrates over Africa