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Small Asteroid Predicted to Cause Brilliant Fireball over Northern Sudan
Don Yeomans
NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office
October 6, 2008

A very small, few-meter sized asteroid, designated 2008 TC3, was found
Monday morning by the Catalina Sky Survey from their observatory near
Tucson Arizona. Preliminary orbital computations by the Minor Planet
Center suggested an atmospheric entry of this object within a day of
discovery. JPL confirmed that an atmospheric impact will very likely
occur during early morning twilight over northern Sudan, north-eastern
Africa, at 2:46 UT Tuesday morning. The fireball, which could be
brilliant, will travel west to east (from azimuth = 281 degrees) at a
relative atmospheric impact velocity of 12.8 km/s and arrive at a very
low angle (19 degrees) to the local horizon. It is very unlikely that
any sizable fragments will survive passage through the Earth's
atmosphere.

Objects of this size would be expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere
every few months on average but this is the first time such an event has
been predicted ahead of time.



FROM: Lori Stiles (cell - 360-0574; lstiles@u.arizona.edu) UA Scientists Discover Tiny Asteroid That Will Hit Earth Tonight University of Arizona October 6, 2008 University of Arizona scientists last night discovered a very small asteroid that is on course to hit Earth tonight at about 7:45 p.m. MST in northern Sudan. The asteroid is too small to be hazardous. But it is the first time astronomers have discovered an object with a nearly 100 percent chance of hitting the Earth. The tiny space rock is only two meters in diameter and is traveling at 12 kilometers per second, said Ed Beshore of UA's Catalina Sky Survey. "Whether it will survive entry through Earth's atmosphere depends on its composition," Beshore said. "But it is sure to create a spectacular sight for those fortunate enough to see it at night." The asteroid is expected to release about one kiloton of energy, either in a single shot or in a series of explosions, when it hits Earth's atmosphere. It is on course to hit Earth's atmosphere with a grazing strike, much like a skipping stone on water, rather than make a direct hit, Beshore said. "It's probably important for people in that area of the world to know that this is not anything other than a natural phenomenon," Beshore said. "We're all watching pretty closely." The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Near Earth Object Observations Program carefully monitors observations from surveys like Catalina as well as those from individual observers. From this data researchers can determine orbits and the likelihood of a collision with the Earth. Richard Kowalski, a member of the Catalina Sky Survey team, discovered the object with the team's 60-inch telescope on Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. Amateur Italian astronomers are well positioned to see the impact and may get pictures of it tonight, Beshore said. Roughly one out of every 20 asteroids is iron, so this one is probably a stony asteroid, Beshore said. Even if this asteroid is iron and reaches the ground intact, the predicted impact area is largely uninhabited, and the danger to individuals is small. The Catalina Sky Survey last year broke all records for discoveries of near-Earth objects, or NEOs. The survey found more than 450 NEOs in 2007. SCIENCE CONTACT: Ed Beshore, office: 520-626-4900 or cell: 520-395-5381; beshore@lpl.arizona.edu)