For 2nd Time Ever, We Saw an Asteroid Before It Hit Us

from While working a solo shift on New Year’s Eve, an Arizona astronomer
spotted a car-sized asteroid en route to Earth. There are a few amazing
things about this: 1) It’s only the second time ever that an asteroid
has been spotted before impact, and 2) The previous one was spotted by
the same guy.
Astronomer Rich Kowalski is part of the Catalina Sky
Survey at the University of Arizona, a group “that has found more than
half the near-Earth asteroids known to mankind,” the head of the lab
tells the Arizona Daily Star

The asteroid, called 2014 AA, almost definitely broke apart in the atmosphere about a day later, reports New Scientist, its pieces falling harmlessly into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. Kowalski’s prior spotting, the similarly-sized
2008 TC3, had a similarly harmless impact over Sudan, where pieces of
it have since been found. There’s a reason these rocks aren’t spotted
often—this one was 150,000 times less bright than the faintest star you
can see with your naked eye
, according to Phil Plait at Slate.
But it also points to how important it is to look, lest the next rock
be more threatening. “It’s yet another reminder that near-Earth space is
a busy place,” the Sky Survey’s director said. (To wit, there’s a small
chance a big asteroid could hit in 2032.)

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