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Small Asteroid Predicted to Cause Brilliant Fireball over Northern Sudan

Don Yeomans
NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office
October 6, 2008

A very small, few-meter sized asteroid, designated 2008 TC3, was found Monday morning by the Catalina Sky Survey from their observatory near Tucson Arizona. Preliminary orbital computations by the Minor Planet Center suggested an atmospheric entry of this object within a day of discovery. JPL confirmed that an atmospheric impact will very likely occur during early morning twilight over northern Sudan, north-eastern Africa, at 2:46 UT Tuesday morning. The fireball, which could be brilliant, will travel west to east (from azimuth = 281 degrees) at a relative atmospheric impact velocity of 12.8 km/s and arrive at a very low angle (19 degrees) to the local horizon. It is very unlikely that any sizable fragments will survive passage through the Earth's atmosphere.

Objects of this size would be expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere every few months on average but this is the first time such an event has been predicted ahead of time.

Update - 6:45 PM PDT (1 hour prior to atmospheric entry)

Since its discovery barely a day ago, 2008 TC3 has been observed extensively by astronomers around the world, and as a result, our orbit predictions have become very precise. We estimate that this object will enter the Earth's atmosphere at around 2:45:28 UTC and reach maximum deceleration at around 2:45:54 UTC. These times are uncertain by +/- 15 seconds or so. The time at which any fragments might reach the ground depends a great deal on the physical properties of the object, but should be around 2:46:20 UTC +/- 40 seconds.

Orbit Diagram of Asteroid 2008 TC3. Asteroid orbit sh
own in blue
Orbit Diagram of Asteroid 2008 TC3
Movie of Asteroid 2008 TC
Movie showing the discovery images of 2008 TC. Images taken at around 06:30 UTC on October 6, 2008. The asteroid was at 19th magnitude and moving at 2.5 degrees per day. Image Credit: Richard Kowalski and Ed Beshore, Catalina Sky Survey
Overhead view showing 2008 TC3's trajectory to Earth
Overhead view showing 2008 TC3's trajectory to Earth. Tick marks are in 15 minute increments.
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