Astronomers discover small asteroid – three hours later it hits Earth

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An asteroid approaching Earth (symbol image) © AdobeStock / Marcos Silva

A small asteroid crashes to Earth. The light show inspires professionals who are now looking for fragments.

Toronto – If an asteroid hits Earth, it can be quite dangerous – just think of the fate of the dinosaurs. However, most celestial objects that hit Earth are so small that they pose no threat. This also applies to the current case.

The asteroid 2022 WJ1 in question was only discovered three hours before its impact – it is believed to be one of only six asteroids already discovered discovered and observed prior to their impact on Earth could become. It was first seen by astronomer David Rankin of Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. Subsequent observations by astronomers quickly confirmed that the celestial body, coming from the direction of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, was on a collision course with Earth.

Asteroid 2022 WJ1 on collision course with Earth – but no danger

However, because it was just under a meter in diameter, there was no danger to Earth – the researchers could sit back, collect data and observe the asteroid. Three hours after its discovery, the small asteroid over Canada entered Earth’s atmosphere. At around 3:27 a.m. local time, multiple meteor cameras recorded a fireball in the sky over Lake Ontario.

Numerous eyewitnesses, including researchers, who were alerted by an asteroid system, were able to see the fireball caused by the asteroid 2022 WJ1 as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere. “It flew right over us and had a distinct green color,” graduate student David Clark explained space weather. com. According to astronomy professor Paul Wiegert, the fireball was “clearly visible among the clouds and a striking orange-red”.

A very spectacular shot shows the fireball passing behind the CN Tower in Toronto:

Asteroid shatters into numerous fragments

Radar stations of the US space agency Nasa could track the asteroid to an altitude of almost a kilometer, where it probably broke into numerous fragments. According to NASA, most of these fragments fell into Lake Ontario, but some parts were also found in the nearby towns of Grimsby and McNab.

Researchers are already looking for fragments of the asteroid on the shore of the lake. For them, meteorites – fragments of celestial bodies found on Earth – are exciting objects: the sooner they are found after impact, the more conclusions they can draw about their origin and past.

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Asteroid 2022 WJ1: Fireball has been seen by many people

“This fireball is significant because the original meteoroid was observed telescopically before it reached the atmosphere,” Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario told Opposite. space weather. com. “We have a rare opportunity to combine telescopic data from an asteroid with its atmospheric breakup behavior to gain insight into its internal structure.”

While small asteroids pose no threat to Earth, slightly larger chunks can be dangerous: asteroids over 20 meters in diameter can create shock waves if they explode in Earth’s atmosphere. For example, this can shatter windows – just like the “Chelyabinsk meteor” that fell over the Russian Urals in 2013.

Asteroids with a diameter of a kilometer or more are considered “planet killers” in astronomy – they can cause enormous damage. However, research assumes that most of these celestial bodies are currently known and pose no immediate threat. Nevertheless, space travel is trying to prepare for this possibility: NASA’s “Dart” space probe recently rammed an asteroid to test a possible defense technology. (tab)

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