Asteroid Arrival Predicted For First Time
The L.A. Times reported that for the first time ever, scientists predicted the arrival of an asteroid before it entered Earth's atmosphere.
Scientists said the asteroid entered the atmosphere over Sudan on Tuesday morning. Estimated at 6 to 15 feet in diameter, it emitted a brilliant light show in East Africa as it burned up. Though parts of it may have reached Earth's surface, it posed no threat to people on the ground, they said.
Scientists also said the prediction of the asteroid's trajectory was more important than the actual discovery of the object.
When the Catalina Sky Survey telescope near Tuscon first observed the object on Monday, it was outside of the moon's orbit. The data was shipped to the Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
"We did an impact analysis and saw that it would indeed hit" the Earth, or at least its upper atmosphere, said Don Yeomans, director of the office charged with monitoring space rubble.
Yeomans then alerted space observers worldwide, including the U.S. Department of Defense.
Yeomans said the successful prediction "shows the system is working," even though less than a day's advance notice would not give ample time to prepare for an asteroid the size of the one believed to have caused the dinosaurs to become extinct 65 million years ago.
One reason it was not sighted earlier was that it was "at the lower end of what we can discover," Yeomans said.
An asteroid large enought to endanger Earth and its inhabitants would likely be spotted much earlier.