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The Largest Fireball Asteroid In 2018 Exploded Over Russia, But NASA Doesn't Notice It Until After Impact

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As NASA beefs up its technology to detect and prevent asteroids, it seems that people in Russia just encountered a fireball of their own.

What Happened In Russia?

NASA confirmed that a fireball struck Earth on June 21 at 1:15 UTC. The fireball was viewed from the Russian city of Lipetsk, which is southeast of Moscow and towards the Ukrainian border.

Witnesses from the cities of Kursk, Voronzeh, and Orel saw the fireball asteroid as it lit up the sky and then hurled towards Earth. In addition to seeing the asteroid, witnesses reported a loud sonic boom from it. No injuries or damages were reported.

In 2013, a large fireball asteroid struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. Nearly 1,500 people required medical attention. Due to Russia's immense size, the country is more likely to have asteroid incidents.

How Was The Fireball Detected?

At first, the fireball was captured by a local video that was uploaded online. It was also detected by nine stations operated by the International Monitoring System (IMS), as well as other weather satellites. Officials said that it raced towards Earth at roughly 2.8 kilotons. By comparison, the fireball in Chelyabinsk was 440 kilotons.

"We determined a source energy of the fireball to be the equivalent of about 3.2 kt TNT, which corresponds to an entering asteroid of about 4 meters in diameter," the IMS wrote.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology also detected the asteroid, but after it struck Russia. It estimates that the asteroid was roughly 4 meters wide, and it came in with a velocity of 14.4 km/s. This fireball, which was moving at 32,000 miles per hour, was the largest of its kind so far in 2018.

What Does This Incident Say About NASA?

This incident in Russia highlights NASA's failure to spot the asteroid before it reached Earth. Just last week, NASA pledged to take the lead for predicting asteroids and protecting the planet from them.

A 10-year plan was released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in June. The plan describes how the government could protect against asteroids. In the 18-page report, NASA wants to improve its tracking capabilities so that it can spot asteroids sooner. The improved technology could also help predict the likelihood of an asteroid striking Earth. NASA will have to budget money to make these changes. The current system in place lacks the capabilities to detect all asteroid threats, as evident by the recent fireball in Russia. Hopefully, NASA can make these changes right away before it is too late.

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