Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

271,758 subscribers and counting ...

Fragments of asteroid 2018 LA found in Botswana

Astronomers detected this small asteroid just 8 hours before it struck Earth’s atmosphere over southern Africa on June 2, 2018, producing a terrific explosion. Now researchers report finding its meteorites.

The 1st meteorite was found after 5 days of walking and scouring a landscape of sand, thick tall grass, shrubs and thorn bushes. Meteorite expert Tomas Kohout (left) and gamekeeper Kegilwe Mogotsi in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Image via University of Helsinki.

An international team of researchers in Botswana has found meteorites known to be fragments of asteroid 2018 LA, which astronomers detected just eight hours before it struck Earth’s atmosphere on June 2, 2018. The space rock was captured in videos (such as the one below) as it disintegrated at a height of 30 miles (50 km) in the atmosphere.

After searching for five days, the team found the first meteorite in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

This is only the third time an asteroid has been detected before striking Earth’s atmosphere, and it’s the second time fragments of the inbound rock have been recovered. The first time was in October 7, 2008, when a 13-foot (4-meter) asteroid, designated as 2008 TC3, exploded over Sudan.

This time, astronomers discovered the small asteroid on a Saturday morning, June 2, and were surprised when its trajectory suggested it would pass very, very close to Earth just hours later. They detected the asteroid with the 60-inch (1.5-meter) telescope at Mt. Lemmon, which is part of the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona.

Trajectory models suggest small asteroid ZLAF9B2 impacted our atmosphere over South Africa on June 2, and U.S. government sensors and satellites confirmed the event. After mounting a search, an international team of researchers has now found fragments of the asteroid. Image via projectpluto.com.

When it struck Earth’s atmosphere, asteroid 2018 LA produced an explosion with an intensity of about 1 kiloton, which suggests an estimated size for the space rock of 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) in diameter.

Peter Jenniskens, a meteorite expert from NASA Ames and SETI Institute, along with Jarmo Moilanen and Esko Lyytinen of the Finnish Fireball Network, made calculations to determine the area to search for meteorites.

The space rock will be investigated further by a research consortium of scientists.

A fragment of asteroid 2018 LA, which entered Earth’s atmosphere on June 2, 2018, causing a terrific explosion.

Bottom line: Researchers have found meteorite fragments of asteroid 2018 LA in Botswana. The asteroid exploded in the atmosphere over southern Africa on June 2, 2018.

Via University of Helsinki

Deborah Byrd

MORE ARTICLES