An asteroid around the size of a refrigerator was spotted hours before it hit Earth’s atmosphere, and while it wasn’t dangerous, it marked the fifth time in history an asteroid was detected right before hitting our planet.
(USA TODAY) On March 11, astronomer Krisztian Sarneczky noticed an asteroid at the Piszkéstető Observatory in Hungary. Sarneczky reported it to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which confirmed it was the first time the asteroid had been observed.
NASA’s “Scout” system, which constantly searches the Minor Planet Center’s database for any potential impacts, then calculated the asteroid’s orbit, finding that the asteroid would certainly hit Earth. The system then notified the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and other asteroid impact systems.
Luckily for Earth, the asteroid, named 2022 EB5, was around 6½-feet-long, a size “too small to pose a hazard to Earth,” NASA said in a statement.
“Scout” determined the asteroid would enter Earth’s atmosphere around Jan Mayen, a Norwegian island roughly 300 miles northeast of Iceland. At 5:23 p.m. EDT, two hours after the asteroid was first spotted by Sarneczky, the asteroid hit Earth’s atmosphere just as “Scout” predicted.
It was the fifth time an asteroid was spotted hours before it hit Earth and the first time it’s happened since 2019.
“Scout had only 14 observations over 40 minutes from one observatory to work with when it first identified the object as an impactor. We were able to determine the possible impact locations, which initially extended from western Greenland to off the coast of Norway,” said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer who developed Scout. “As more observatories tracked the asteroid, our calculations of its trajectory and impact location became more precise.”
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