A small asteroid recently discovered by astronomers burned in the sky in southern Africa on Saturday night. The asteroid, named 2018 LA, was discovered just a few hours before impact and was on a collision course with the Earth but it was decomposed safely in the atmosphere.
Asteroids are rocky metal bodies that circulate the sun. NASA regularly keeps track of asteroids and other objects that threaten the Earth. The asteroid discovery has increased significantly thanks to upgraded telescopes and sophisticated instruments, and they can now accurately predict ways of potentially dangerous objects before they hit. Although there was not enough tracking data to make accurate predictions about the newly discovered asteroid, researchers could limit the location to southern Africa.
A light fireball that discovered above Botswana Saturday night was in line with the predicted path of the asteroid. The asteroid entered the earth's atmosphere at the high speed of 1
Normally, NASA sent alerts to observers when an asteroid was detected and used further observations to determine if there were any risks of impact. But 2018 LA was a very weak asteroid and was estimated to be only about 6 meters above, making it a small and therefore harmless object. The asteroid was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, located near Tucson.
"This was a much smaller item than we have to detect and warn about," states planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson at NASA's headquarters. "But this real event allows us to exert our opportunities and give some confidence in our consequences for calculations are sufficient to respond to the potential impact of a larger object."
When the asteroid was first discovered, it was almost as far away as the moon's orbit. The data collected by the Catalina telescope showed a high likelihood that the asteroid was on a battlefield. It's only the third time that an asteroid was determined to be on a collision course with the earth. The first asteroid was the 2008 TC3, which exploded across northern Sudan on October 7, 2008, while the other such asteroid 2014 AA was discovered just a few hours before the impact on January 1, 2014 in the Atlantic.