Scientists glimpse an incoming asteroid just hours before impact

Astrophysicists have glimpsed an asteroid before it hits Earth for only the sixth time in history.

And on Nov. 19, 2022, nearly four hours before the collision, the Catalina Sky Survey detected an asteroid called 2022 WJ1 on an inward trajectory. And a network of telescopes and scientists has been launched into action to calculate precisely when and where the asteroid will hit on the globe.

2022 WJ1 was too small to do any serious damage, but its discovery shows that the world’s asteroid-tracking technologies are improving, giving us a better chance to protect ourselves from falling space rocks — big ones that might actually do some damage, according to Scienceert.

And while space is mostly space, there’s also a myriad of lack of space. And near Earth, this non-space is mostly asteroids that orbit the Sun in such a way that they approach Earth’s orbit. We call them near-Earth asteroids, and as of this writing, 30,656 have been catalogued.

Most of these asteroids are actually very small, and scientists are confident that they’ve found most of them large enough to pose a major threat, studied them, and determined that none of them will get close enough in the next century to be a threat.

Still, it’s a good idea to stay abreast of what’s happening in the space around us and hone our skills for finding difficult rocks considering we’re making a grand entrance.

2022 WJ1 was detected at 04:53 UTC on November 19, 2022 by Mount Lemon Observatory, part of the Catalina network. He continued observing the object, taking four photos that allowed astronomers to confirm the discovery, and reported it to the IAU’s Minor Planet Center at 05:38 UTC.

And those four images were enough to calculate the asteroid’s trajectory across the sky, with multiple impact-monitoring programs finding that the rock had a 20 percent chance of falling somewhere on the North American continent.

Follow-up observations allowed the scientists to refine their measurements, given the time and place. Right on time, at 08:27 UTC, 2022 WJ1 was seen zigzagging across the sky as a bright green fireball, over the Golden Horseshoe region of southern Ontario, Canada.

The discovery was the first meteor ever predicted to hit a densely populated area, but the rock posed no danger. It is about 1 meter (3.3 ft) across when it enters Earth’s atmosphere, making it the smallest pre-atmospheric asteroid observed to date.

Here it transformed into a fiery bolt of lightning and shattered, falling to the ground into smaller pieces that mostly fell into the waters of Lake Ontario. Most of the identifiable pieces of the meteorite must have been small fragments of debris; Scientists hope to recover some of them to further study the asteroid.

The previous five asteroids discovered before the impact were 2008 TC3, which was about 4 meters in diameter; 2014 AA, 3 meters wide; Los Angeles 2018, three meters wide; MO 2019 at 6 metres; And earlier this year, the 2022 EB5 happened, which was about two meters wide.

And the discovery of 2022 WJ1, and the global coordination it has tracked, is a great testament to how sensitive technology has grown and how amazing human collaboration is to better understand rogue space rocks.

Naturally, these observations present a rare opportunity to study what happens to asteroids as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Astronomer and physicist Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario said: “This fireball is particularly important as the parent meteorite was observed telescopically before it impacted the atmosphere. This makes it a rare opportunity to link the data telescopes of an asteroid to its behavior in the atmosphere. collapse in the atmosphere to obtain information about its structure.” The interior “..and this extraordinary event will provide clues about the composition and strength that, combined with telescopic measurements, will help us understand how small asteroids pass through the atmosphere, which is important knowledge for planetary defense.”

And the 2022 WJ1 wreck is expected to be dark, with a fresh thin melt crust and a stony gray interior. Scientists are calling for any suspicious parts to be reported to the Royal Ontario Museum.

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