A meteorite fall this week put key detection methods for incoming asteroids to the test, resulting in the swift recovery of surviving fragments.
When it Falls into Earth
On the night of February 12th into the morning of February 13th, astronomers detected a 1-meter asteroid just hours before it impacted Earth’s atmosphere. Astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky spotted the 1-meter (3-foot) asteroid, initially designated Sar2667 and now known as 2023 CX1, as he was working at the GINOP KHK observatory in Piszkéstetö, Hungary, on the evening of Sunday, February 12th, at 9:18 local time (20:18 UT).
The Earth’s atmosphere over the UK and France spotted just hours before it crashed.
The world given only seven hours’ warning that it approached by the one-meter asteroid, which burnt up safely over Europe on Monday morning.
But spotting it all hailed as a triumph – and one that has only happened a handful of times before.
In all, the asteroid’s impact only the seventh time that such an event predicted in advance.
That is a “sign of the rapid advancements in global asteroid detection capabilities”, said the European Space Agency, which just one of a range of organizations scrambled to monitor the asteroid as it hurtled towards Earth.
From the beginning, those monitoring the asteroid were also able to predict that it was small at about one meter across, and unlikely to cause any damage.
Spotting the asteroid in advance also meant that scientists around the world were able to watch it as flew towards Earth and lit up in our atmosphere.
A wide array of observatories was able to watch the event, according to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre, which tracks such objects as well as helps to ensure that scientists are aware of any approaches that might be of interest.
Place Where it Falls
Their estimates placed the time of the impact between 02:50 and 03:03 UTC, over the English Channel that separates France and the UK. And, sure enough, at 02.59 UTC, 2023 CX1 turned into a spectacular fireball lighting up the skies as it ruptured into a glowing rubble pile of falling debris. Any of those smaller rocks that might have hit dry land would be most likely found on the coast of France, north of the city of Rouen.
There are a number of reasons why this detection is so amazing. Measuring just an estimate 1.1 meters (3.3 feet) across, the 2023 CX1 is one of the smallest impactors detected prior to atmospheric entry yet. And although only seven such detections ever made, 2023 CX1 is the third in the last 12 months. This means that we’re getting much better at spotting potential meteorites well before they hit.
The other six asteroids that detected prior to entry, and whose names reflect the years they discovered, were 2008 TC3, which was around 4 meters across; 2014 AA, at 3 meters across; 2018 L. Also, three meters across; 2019 MO at 6 meters across; 2022 EB5, which was around 2 meters across, spotted 2.5 hours prior to impact and also discovered by Sárneczky; and 2022 WJ1, just 1 meter across, spotted 4 hours prior to impact.