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Asteroid headed straight for Earth burns up in sky

07 June 2018

A video posted on YouTube by Melissa Delport shows the asteroid burning up in the evening sky over Botswana, eight hours after first being noticed.

The asteroid made impact into the earth's atmosphere at about 12:44 p.m. on June 2, at a speed of 38,000 miles per hour over South Africa. NASA says it disintegrated several miles over the surface as it lit up the sky.

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.

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Just over 13 hours after it was detected, a bright "bolide" fireball was spotted at the end of that line, over the border between Botswana and South Africa.

The asteroid, dubbed 2018 LA, was discovered out near the moon's orbit, aiming straight for Earth.

The astroboffins only managed to get a couple of readings on the asteroid's trajectory, and thought it would strike somewhere in southern Africa, the Indian Ocean, or possibly New Guinea. In fact, an infrasound station in South Africa detected the impact of the asteroid on Saturday afternoon. "It's also only the second time that the high probability of an impact was predicted well ahead of the event itself", Paul Chodas, manager of CNEOS at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the agency's statement. He adds that the event is also only the second time that a location has been identified with enough time before eventual impact. According to NASA, the asteroid was determined to be on a collision course with Earth, with impact just hours away. The officer added, "The modern facilities, capabilities, and the models for impact prediction have potential to predict the impact of larger objects".

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NASA tracks 90 per cent of near-Earth objects that are larger than 150 meters in diameter, which means it misses lots of the smaller ones until they're close by.

NASA officials said the scramble among scientists and asteroid observers was a good training exercise. The first was 2008 TC3, which was detected 15 hours before it broke up over northern Sudan on October 7, 2008.

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. The second predicted impact event was for asteroid 2014 AA, which was discovered only a few hours before impact on January 1, 2014, in the Atlantic Ocean, leaving too little time for follow-up observations.

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Asteroid headed straight for Earth burns up in sky