Asteroid detected just hours before it exploded over Berlin

Asteroid detected just hours before it exploded over Berlin

A small asteroid detected only hours before entering the Earth’s atmosphere burned up in the skies above Berlin into a harmless fireball on Sunday.

The entry of the space rock, dubbed 2024 BXI, into the Earth’s atmosphere was unique as it was first detected only hours before impact.

This marks only the eighth time an asteroid has been spotted before it hit the Earth, researchers say.

The asteroid was discovered by Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky about three hours before its impact, according to the International Astronomical Union.

Nasa confirmed the discovery about 20 minutes before impact.

“Heads Up: A tiny asteroid will disintegrate as a harmless fireball west of Berlin near Nennhausen shortly at 1:32am CET. Overseers will see it if it’s clear!” Nasa posted on X on Saturday evening.

The asteroid, previously known under its temporary designation Sar2736, measured about a meter wide and was captured on camera as it appeared and disappeared in the skies above Berlin for a short span of a few seconds around 00:33 UT.

Astronomers suspect it may have started disintegrating about 50km (30 miles) west of Berlin, dropping some smaller space rocks along the way.

The asteroid’s sighting is also unusual as about 99 per cent of near-Earth asteroids smaller than 30m (98 ft) across are yet undiscovered, according to the European Space Agency.

It is even more difficult to accurately predict where such small asteroids could impact Earth, but their potential threat to life on the planet remains low.

Nasa and some space agencies across the globe have teams monitoring large asteroids that could be more dangerous to the planet.

The American space agency’s NEO Surveyor satellite planned for launch in 2027 is expected to help find even more asteroids.

Scientists are also probing ways to deflect and detonate explosives on asteroids to safeguard Earth.

Nasa’s Dart mission launched in 2022 successfully changed the course of asteroid Dimorphos by slamming a refrigerator-sized spacecraft onto it.

The demonstration showed the method can be effective in moving an Earth-threatening asteroid before it reached the planet.

Researchers are also exploring the use of nuclear devices to alter the trajectory of catastrophic space rocks.