New Year’s Asteroid

Asteroid 2014 AA, discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on Jan. 1, 2014, as it moved across the sky. Image Credit: CSS/LPL/UA. Clicking on the image will take you to a larger image at NASA.

The Catalina Sky Survey found the first asteroid of the new year early Wednesday morning. The asteroid was a wee one, just 2 or 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) in diameter.

I should say “apparently” because the object can no longer be observed. From the series of images they obtained put together in the animation above it sure looks to be asteroid 2014 AA, what else could it be?

You might wonder why they don’t just do more observations. The answer is they can’t. 2014 AA was on a potential Earth impact trajectory and most likely entered the atmosphere between 19:00 UTC Wednesday and 14:00 UTC Thursday.

There were no fireball sighting reports (at least not yet), there are and most likely the asteroid broke apart on entry.

Using the only available observations, three independent projections of the possible orbit by the independent orbit analyst Bill Gray, of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., and Steve Chesley, of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are in agreement that 2014 AA would hit Earth’s atmosphere. According to Chesley, the potential impact locations are widely distributed because of the orbit uncertainty, falling along an arc extending from Central America to East Africa. The most likely impact location of the object was just off the coast of West Africa at about 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. EST) Jan. 1.

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