Published: Thu, June 07, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Boulder-size asteroid disintegrated harmlessly over Africa - 6/4/2018 12:23:23 PM

While above Africa, not a long way from the ground, it caught fire and disintegrated in smaller pieces, producing an impressive display of lights.

It was first spotted when it was about the same distance away from Earth as the Moon is, and scientists jumped into action to attempt to predict where it might impact.

JUST hours after U.S. space agency NASA detected it, an asteroid smashed into Botswana, Africa on the weekend.

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.

Mr Swanepoel had been having coffee on his neighbour's farm" between Ottosdal and Hartbeesfontein' and was driving home when he saw the "huge fireball' in the sky. "Generally speaking, I would say that the system worked fairly nicely".

While the thought of a 6-foot-wide rock hurling towards us at 38,000 miles per hour might seem like a good reason to be alarmed, NASA views the discovery differently.

An asteroid four times as big exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 in an airburst blowing out windows injuring more than 1,500 people mainly due to cuts caused by flying glass and debris.

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According to NASA, however, about 90 per cent of all asteroids larger than one kilometre have been discovered. However, not all of them are big enough to pose a threat to our planet, and they are sometimes hard to spot until they reach our atmosphere.

"This was a much smaller object than we are tasked to detect and warn about", said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters, in a statement from the agency. That was a slightly larger asteroid (about 13 feet, or 4 meters in size), and it was discovered a full 19 hours before impact, allowing for a large number of follow-up observations and a very precise trajectory to be calculated.

Center for the study of near-earth objects NASA (CNEOS) confirmed that the asteroid is likely to enter the atmosphere of the planet.

And each time, the object was spotted by Richard Kowalski of the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson.

Given the name 2018 LA, it was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on June 2 in the U.S. at which point the asteroid was as close to Earth as the moon, astronomers said. It came apart above Sudan, as predicted.

The second event occurred January 1, 2014, when the asteroid 2014 AA was spotted just a few hours before it fell over the Atlantic Ocean.

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