Asteroid hits Earth just hours after being spotted by NASA’s ‘Planetary Defense’ system

Rob Waugh
Contributor
These images show the discovery of asteroid 2018 LA by the Catalina Sky Survey on June 2, 2018 (NASA)

An asteroid hit Earth’s atmosphere this weekend just hours after NASA spotted it – blazing across the skies above Africa on Saturday night.

The asteroid was only spotted by NASA’s Planetary Defense System, and was captured in a spectacular webcam video as it burned through the skies above a rural area west of Johannesburg.

NASA says the asteroid was only six feet across – classified as ‘boulder-sized’ – and was only the third asteroid to have been captured on an ‘impact trajectory’.

It burned up safely miles above Earth’s surface.

The asteroid appeared as a streak in the series of time-exposure images taken by the Catalina telescope.

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

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‘However, this real-world event allows us to exercise our capabilities and gives some confidence our impact prediction models are adequate to respond to the potential impact of a larger object.’

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 discovery of asteroid 2018 LA is only the third time that an asteroid has been discovered to be on an impact trajectory,’ said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at JPL.

‘It is also only the second time that the high probability of an impact was predicted well ahead of the event itself.’