From asteroid to fireball — in a day

Posted by Daniel Pendick
on Monday, October 6, 2008

If you want to witness something historic, get on the next flight to Sudan. That’s where a unique meteorological event may take place late tonight.

Astronomer Rich Kowalski of the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson discovered asteroid 2008 TC3 last night. And astronomers predict that tonight, on October 7 Africa time, the object will enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in a spectacular fireball.

The asteroid is only a few meters across at most, so it will not reach the surface and thus poses no threat to anybody. (Whew!) But it’s big enough to put on an impressive show — I mean, if you live in Sudan.

According to Don Yeomans of the Near-Earth Object Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, this "is the first time we have observed an impacting object during its final approach."

Pretty amazing story — the space rock that (maybe) will go from asteroid to a hot smudge on the upper atmosphere in only 2 days!

For more information about this event, read Senior Editor Rich Talcott's preview, "Asteroid will disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere tonight."

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