Asteroid discovered hours before Earth impact

Long-exposure photo, with very bright fireball.
An astronomer discovered an asteroid approximately 2 hours before it struck Earth’s atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean on March 11, 2022. The fireball in this image – from January 21, 1999 – is an example of what the 2022 meteor might have looked like, if any witnesses had been in the Arctic to observe it. Image via Czech station No. 16 of the European Fireball Network/ Planetary Science Institute.

Update! Krisztián Sárneczky, the same astronomer who discovered this asteroid, discovered a new asteroid on March 25, 2022, just hours before its closest approach to Earth. Read about the newest asteroid discovered, Sar2594.

Asteroid impacts Earth’s atmosphere just 2 hours after discovery

Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky at the Piszkésteto Mountain Station – part of Konkoly Observatory near Budapest – discovered a small asteroid on March 11, 2022, just two hours before it struck Earth’s atmosphere. The asteroid is believed to have started out about 10 feet (3 meters) wide. Now labeled 2022 EB5, this object entered Earth’s atmosphere north of Iceland at 21:22 UTC on March 11. Orbit simulation expert Tony Dunn on Twitter (@tony873004) commented:

When 2022 EB5 struck the Earth north of Iceland this morning, it became the 5th asteroid to be discovered prior to impacting Earth.

The other four are 2014 AA, 2018 LA, 2008 TC3 and 2019 MO.

Visit EarthSky’s night sky guide for March-April 2022

Did you see or hear it?

The asteroid is estimated to have been moving at a speed of about 11 miles per second (18.5 km/s). That’s in contrast to Earth’s own speed in orbit of 18 miles per second (30 km/s). Its flight through our atmosphere would have caused all or part of this small asteroid to vaporize due to friction with the air. So its headlong flight through our atmosphere should have caused a bright meteor, or shooting star, often called a fireball.

The International Meteor Organization is seeking reports of anyone who might have seen the brilliant meteor created by 2022 EB5. A few people in Iceland reported seeing a bright flash of light, or hearing a boom. If you live around Iceland and Norway and believe you saw the resulting meteor from this asteroid impact with Earth, click this link to report your observations.

Did it strike Earth?

Did the asteroid survive its fiery flight through our atmosphere? We’re hearing conflicting reports about that, but the answer is … probably not. At this writing, no meteorite has been found.

Bottom line: An astronomer discovered asteroid 2022 EB5 just two hours before it impacted Earth over the Arctic Ocean. Fortunately, it was small.

March 13, 2022

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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