Friday, December 19, 2014 Headlines & Global News

Asteroid 2014 AA; Couch-Sized Space Rock Hits Earth's Atmosphere Over Atlantic

By Rebekah Marcarelli r.marcarelli@hngn.com | Jan 02, 2014 05:56 PM EST

"An artist's rendition of the nearest approach of asteroid 2012 DA14 to Earth is shown in this NASA handout still frame from an animated video." The asteroid passed by Earth in February of 2013.
"An artistic representation of the nearest approach of asteroid 2012 DA14 to Earth. The asteroid passed by Earth in February of 2013. Events such as the most recent asteroid impact show how real the danger of asteroid impacts really is. (Photo : Reuters)

An asteroid burnt up in Earth's atmosphere the day after New Years; and we saw it coming. 

Asteroid 2014 AA was spotted researchers using the Mt. Lemmon Survey telescope in Arizona. I it believed to have been about the size of a couch, Discovery News reported. 

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This asteroid was only the second in history that hit our atmosphere after we had already spotted it. It burned up somewhere over the Atlantic between South America and Africa.  

"2014 AA was unlikely to have survived atmospheric entry intact, as it was comparable in size to 2008 TC3, the only other example of an impacting object observed prior to atmospheric entry," a Minor Planet Electronic Circular announcement said, Discovery News reported. 

2008 TC3 hit Earth over Sudan in 2008, it was spotted days in advance. Researchers spotted 2014 AA about 22 hours before impact, Sky & Telescope reported.

"I'm kicking myself for not having spotted this," amateur "NEO sleuth" Bill Gray (Project Pluto), told Sky & Telescope. "and yes, for me, it was holiday-related."

Gray spends most mornings downloading information about possible impacts or close calls. 

"However, on New Years Day, I'd made arrangements to go with my family to visit my sister, go for a walk, stop off for a doughnut, shovel snow, etc., etc," he said.

It is possible that someone sailing on the Atlantic could have caught a glimpse of a brilliant fireball disintegrating over Earth's atmosphere, but no sightings have been reported so far. 

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy said this event (while not threatening itself) should call attention to the very real danger of asteroid impacts. 

While 2014 AA wasn't a threat,  there are a million bigger ricks out that cross Earth;s orbit big enough to cause real damage should they hit us. And given enough time, they will," Plait wrote in the Slate blog.

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