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An asteroid hit the Arctic Ocean – just two hours before it was discovered

Impact of craters, meteorite discoveries, and such events Tunguska explosion We witness that our land is under cosmic bombardment He says: Time and time again asteroids fly close to or hit the Earth. While larger objects are under astronomical observation and their orbits are usually well known, this is not the case for smaller objects. They are so faint that they are often detected late or not at all. the soul is one 100 meter asteroid It was already ignored – but thankfully it didn’t arrive.

Small and fast light point

It’s so rare that on March 11, 2022, astronomers detected a piece at least less than two meters in size just before it collided. It is the fifth asteroid ever “caught” before re-entering the atmosphere and the first impactor discovered by a European astronomer, according to NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

It was discovered by Krisztián Sárneczky of the Piszkéstető . Observatory in Hungary , while scanning the sky with a 60 cm telescope on the evening of March 11. At 20:24 our afternoon, he noticed a small, fast-moving point of light. After the spot moved dramatically in four successive exposures, it was evident that it was measuring a fast and close object – a near-Earth asteroid.

Alarm chain begins

Just 14 minutes later, the astronomer reported the new object to the Minor Planet Center NASAThat alerted astronomers and other observatories. At the same time, NASA’s “Scout” risk assessment system calculated the trajectory of the object, called 2022 EB5, based on the data provided. “The scout initially only had 14 observations that spanned over 40 minutes when he identified the object as an impactor,” explains David Farnocchia of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Just about an hour after the piece, estimated to be two meters in size, was discovered, ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Center (NEOCC) and NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office were notified in an automated series of alerts. At that point, calculations were already predicting that the asteroid would impact the Arctic Ocean just an hour later, between 10:21 PM and 10:25 PM.

Impact on the Arctic Ocean

And this is what happened: at 10:22 p.m., the asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere about 140 kilometers north of Jan Mayen – less than two hours after it was discovered. The fireball could not be observed in this deserted area. But the global network of ultrasonic sensors recorded the shock. The energy released during the impact was roughly equivalent to a 4.0 earthquake. Astronomers estimate that Earth collides with pieces of this size about ten times a year – but these asteroids are usually only discovered when they collide.

“Small asteroids like 2022 EB5 are numerous and strike Earth’s atmosphere relatively frequently,” said Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). “But because they are so vulnerable a few hours before their impact, they are rarely detected in space.” In addition, the right part of the sky should be visible to the observing telescope in time.

New telescopes for better observation

After all, asteroids, which are much larger and can cause serious damage, are usually discovered earlier. However, astronomers are working to further improve NEO observations. The Flyeye telescope, currently located in Monte Mufara, should contribute to this in the future In Italy Building. Its optics work in a similar way to the complex eyes of an insect by generating images from 16 partial exposures.

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“The extremely wide field of view of these new telescopes will allow us to survey large areas of the sky in just one night,” explains Detlev Koschny, head of the Planetary Defense Division at the European Space Agency. “It reduces the risk of losing a potentially important object.”

This article was written by Nadja Podbregar

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