Scientists have found a chunk of the car sized meteorite that exploded over the South African wilderness just seconds before impact.
The spinning space rock was captured by two farmers on CCTV on June 2nd as it hurtled down from the heavens leaving a blazing white heat trail in its wake.
It blew up in a huge fireball 30 miles before impact – but was just two seconds away from slamming into the savannah.
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The space rock was captured by two farmers on CCTV on June 2nd as it hurtled down from the heavens leaving a blazing white heat trail in its wake. now, researchers have found a chunk of it (pictured)
A HISTORIC FIND
The discovery of Asteroid 2018 LA is only the the third time that an asteroid has been discovered to be on an impact trajectory with the Earth.
All three of them were small enough to evaporate on entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, NASA said.
The 2008 asteroid was spotted 19 hours in advance and measured 13 feet, or 4 meters. It came apart above Sudan, as predicted.
The 2014 asteroid was discovered just a few hours before entering over the Atlantic, with little time for tracking.
All three asteroids were discovered through the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, which is run by the University of Arizona and funded by NASA.
The same asteroid hunter, Richard Kowalski, made all three discoveries.
Researchers say the find ‘has enormous scientific value’ and allows better calibration of the so-called ‘Earth Defense’ against impacting asteroids.
The incident was witnessed by a number of spectators in Botswana and neighbouring countries and was captured on numerous security cameras.
Asteroid 2018 LA was detected in space eight hours before hitting Earth.
It was detected by the Catalina Sky Survey, operated by the University of Arizona and sponsored by NASA as part of its Planetary Defence mission.
This is the third time in history that an asteroid inbound to hit Earth was detected early and only the second time that fragments were recovered.
After disruption, the asteroid fragments were blown by the wind while falling down, scattering over a wide area.
The meteorite was found after five days of walking and scouring around by a team of geoscientists from Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), Botswana Geoscience Institute (BGI) and University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute (ORI).
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks granted access and deployed park rangers for protection and participation in the search.
Calculations of the landing area were done independently by a US-based group headed by Peter Jenniskens, a subject expert of the NASA-sponsored SETI Institute in California, as well as Esko Lyytinen and Jarmo Moilanen of the Finnish Fireball Network (FFN).
The search for more fragments of the meteorite continues.
Farmer Barend Swanepoel posted incredible footage of the cosmic boulder heading towards his farm at Ottosdal near the border with Botswana at 6.40pm.
NASA officials said the scramble among scientists and asteroid observers was a good training exercise.
Their ability to zoom in on likely impact areas bodes well for the future, if and when a bigger object heads our way.
Incredible footage captures the moment the space rock – which was about 6 feet across – heads towards the earth
This photo shows the trajectory of the asteroid as it made its way across the planet before burning up
‘This was a much smaller object than we are tasked to detect and warn about,’ NASA’s planetary defense officer, Lindley Johnson, said in a statement.
‘However, this real-world event allows us to exercise our capabilities and gives some confidence our impact prediction models are adequate to respond to the potential impact of a larger object.’
Mr Swanepoel had been having coffee on his neighbour’s farm’ between Ottosdal and Hartbeesfontein’ and was driving home when he saw the ‘huge fireball’ in the sky.
He said: ‘The advantage I had was I saw it in colour and it was not like on the cameras. It was a fireball falling with this red tail behind and I thought that the grassland is going to burn.’
Unfortunately, the trees next to the gravel road concealed Mr Swanepoel’s view of the final plunge.
He later checked his CCTV and said: ‘One of the small cameras monitoring the barn with feed for his animals caught the footage that you saw on social media. It was incredible to see.’
The asteroid crashed down in Ottosdal near the border with Botswana at 6.40pm on Saturday
An asteroid four times as big exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 in an airburst blowing out windows and injuring over 1,500 people with cuts caused by flying glass and debris.
NASA’s Near Earth Object Centre said that Asteroid 2018 LA was travelling at 27,738 mph and was about the size of a small car.