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Scientists spot small asteroid hours before collision with Earth

05 June 2018

Luckily for us earthlings, scientists think asteroid 2018 LA only stretched about 6 feet in width, small enough to safely disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere. The asteroid hit Earth's atmosphere over the southern African nation of Botswana at 12:44 p.m. EDT (1644 GMT) while hurtling down at a whopping 38,000 miles per hour (61,155 km/h). It was moving an incredible 10 miles per second when it reached Earth.

The space rock, dubbed 2018 LA, was first identified by scientists with the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, organized by the University of Arizona, on Saturday morning.

"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 at JPL.

He checked his CCTV and said: "One of the small cameras monitoring the barn with feed for his animals caught the footage that you saw on social media". Although it looks like the fireball impacts the ground, it is really just disappearing over the horizon.

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Discovery photographs captured with the Catalina Sky Survey show asteroid 2018 LA about eight hours before it slammed into Earth's atmosphere and broke up.

Astronomers were limited by tracking data, but predicted the asteroid's trajectory would see it enter the atmosphere between South Africa and New Guinea.

Lindley Johnson, an official at NASA's Planetary Defense team described planetary defense team's thoughts saying: "T$3 his 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".

Smaller objects are fainter and more hard to spot in a large sky, though efforts like the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey are increasingly able to search a wider field of sky to find these somewhat elusive objects.

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Trajectory path of ZLAF9B2 (2018 LA) plotted across Oceania, the Indian Ocean and Africa. According to CNEOS records, the asteroid's distance from Earth's centre, at closest approach, was calculated to be 5,874 km, which is well inside the planet's radius of 6,371 km.

A boulder-sized asteroid on a collision course with Earth reportedly disintegrated in the atmosphere, lighting up the sky over Botswana, Africa, according to NASA.

At the time of its discovery, 2018 LA was nearly as close to Earth as the orbit of the moon, "although that was not initially known", stated NASA officials.

The 2008 asteroid was spotted 19 hours in advance and measured 13 feet, or 4 meters.

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This doesn't mean the asteroid touched down on Earth and was spirited away by shadowy men in dark suits. The blazing fireball sent meteorite hunters scrambling to find fragments of the rare space rock.

Scientists spot small asteroid hours before collision with Earth