NASA predicted where a small asteroid would hit Earth hours in advance

A small asteroid burned over the sky of Ontario, Canada, a week ago. No known damage occurred, as is often the case with such small objects, but the event was a perfect testing ground for NASA’s Scout impact risk assessment system.

The asteroid 2022 WJ1 it was discovered on the night of November 18 and burned up in the atmosphere just hours later.

Detection and monitoring are crucial aspects of the planetary defense, and efforts are focused on dangerous asteroids. However, it is always good to test systems in a real life scenario.

Not posing a threat, 2022 WJ1 was only one meter wide (three feet). It was observed only 3.5 hours before impact, but NASA was able to track it and predict where it was going to burn.

“The planetary defense community really demonstrated its skill and readiness with its response to this brief warning event,” said Kelly Fast, Near-Earth Object Observations program manager for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) in NASA headquarters in Washington in a statement.

“Such harmless impacts become spontaneous real-world exercises and give us confidence that NASA’s planetary defense systems are capable of reporting the response to the potential for a severe impact from a larger object,” Fast reports.

The Catalina Sky Survey, funded by NASA, discovered the asteroid. Seven minutes later, Scout knew there was a one in four chance that it would hit somewhere between Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North America.

More observations were soon made, including by a group of amateur astronomers in Kansas at the Fairpoint Observatory who provided critical observations. A total of 46 observations were made.

These data allowed the explorer to confirm that the small rock was going to hit the Earth and from where your fireball would be visible with two hours to spare. This allowed the Lake Ontario researchers to prepare for the event and even track small meteorites released when the cosmic body disintegrated.

“Small objects like this can only be detected when they are very close to Earth, so if they are headed for an impact, timing is of the essence to collect as many observations as possible,” said Shantanu Naidu, a NASA navigation engineer. .

“This object was discovered early enough that the planetary defense community could provide further observations, which Scout then used to confirm the impact and predict where and when the asteroid was going to hit.”

The discovery bodes well for more serious threats. East it is only the sixth asteroid that has been tracked in space before hitting Earth.


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