Scientists say an asteroid about 6 feet across disintegrated in Earth’s atmosphere over the weekend, hours after it was discovered. The celestial firework show took place over Botswana in southern Africa. You can see a video of the event below.
Typically, scientists are able to keep tabs on near-Earth threatsIn fact, scientists have already found 90 percent of near-Earth asteroids that are larger than 3,000 feet. But this one was different because of its small size.
The asteroid, dubbed 2018 LA, was first discovered this past Saturday, June 2, when it was about as far away as the Moon’s orbit. Although it was on a path straight for Earth, the boulder-sized space rock burned up several miles above the planet’s surface.
“This was a much smaller object than we are tasked to detect and warn about,” said Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA Headquarters. “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.”
This is only the third time the discovery of an asteroid was on an impact trajectory with Earth, and the second time the high probability of an impact was predicted ahead of time.