An asteroid crashed into the Earth's atmosphere over Africa on June 2, just hours after it was discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey.
The asteroid, fortunately, was not a threat due to its relatively small size. However, its impact into the Earth's atmosphere a few hours after it was first spotted raises fears that a much bigger asteroid might slip through the radars.
Undetected Asteroid Crashes Into Earth Atmosphere
The Catalina Sky Survey, operated by the University of Arizona and located near Tucson, discovered the boulder-sized asteroid named 2018 LA on the morning of June 2. The asteroid, which was estimated to be only about 6 feet across, entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 10 miles per second at about 12:44 p.m. EDT, just a few hours after it was first spotted.
The asteroid disintegrated several miles over the surface somewhere over Botswana, Africa, lighting up the night sky with a bright fireball. The final moments of 2018 LA were caught by a webcam in South Africa, with the fireball disappearing over the horizon.
Another Asteroid Near Earth: Should We Panic?
2018 LA is not the first asteroid that flew near Earth or crashed into it this year. In May, the previously lost asteroid 2010 WC9, which was longer than a football field, sailed past Earth at about 120,000 miles away. This was the closest distance of an asteroid its size in almost 300 years.
In April, a smaller asteroid but still as big as a football field, sailed past Earth. The troubling fact is that nobody knew about asteroid 2018 GE3 until it had already passed.
With these reports, there are concerns that it might not be long before a massive, undetected asteroid crashes into Earth, with an impact similar to the one that killed the dinosaurs.
NASA, however, quickly addressed the fear before it escalated.
"This was a much smaller object than we are tasked to detect and warn about," said NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson. NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is tasked with searching, tracking, and identifying any potentially damaging asteroids heading to Earth. The office will issue warnings if there are possible impacts and will coordinate with the United States government if there was a real threat of impact.
It appears that 2018 LA was just too small of an asteroid, which is why NASA did not pick it up earlier. It was much smaller than the Chelyabinsk meteor that hit Russia five years ago, which injured over 1,200 people and damaged thousands of buildings up to 58 miles from where it hit.