Something rare happened on Saturday at around 5.30 p.m EDT – astronomers detected an asteroid seconds before it entered Earth’s atmosphere. The space rock hit Earth, eventually.
The asteroid that was observed by telescopes in Hawaii was quite small – the volume of a refrigerator, ten times lower than the meteorite that blew up in the sky over Russia six years ago, in 2013. The small-scale size caused it to burn in the atmosphere before hitting Earth and causing any destruction. But despite this, astronomers calculated that it had the similar explosive power of 5,000 tons of TNT. The official name it was given is 2019 MO.
Small Asteroid (NEOCP A10eoM1) impacted Earth on 2019 June 22https://t.co/LqrbGzpfJc@Yeqzids @pgbrown @frankie57pr @fallingstarIfA @PS1NEOwatch @michael_w_busch #astronomy #asteroids pic.twitter.com/n1xACVQBvR
— Ernesto Guido (@comets77) June 25, 2019
As reported by NASA in their Fireball and Bolide Reports, approximately once a year an asteroid the same size or bigger than 2019 MO enters Earth’s atmosphere. They burn before producing any damages.
Astronomers spotted an asteroid seconds before it hit Earth
An exciting and exceptional thing about this asteroid is that they are not usually identified before they get into the atmosphere. This kind of thing only occurred three times before in our history. The first time happened in October 2008 when telescopes spotted asteroid 2008 TC3.
The second time, asteroid 2014 AA was discovered in January 2014, and the third time asteroid 2018 LA was seen entering the Earth’s atmosphere in June 2018. 2018 LA was the first one of the three to succeed in hitting the ground, not before shattering in fragments, in South Africa.
The reason that asteroids are spotted more and more is that astronomers have advanced pieces of equipment which are better at identifying approaching space rocks. However, the fact that it is easier to spot asteroids that enter Earth’s atmosphere is not that advantageous. If a more prominent space rock would crash into the atmosphere, astronomers can’t do much to prevent a disaster. Luckily, NASA and other space agencies from around the world made it their objective to follow and take measures against the massive asteroids out there in space.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.