From ABC News, Australia
Astronomers are calling for more funding to watch southern skies, after an asteroid took sky-gazers by surprise and entered the earth’s atmosphere over Africa yesterday.
Yesterday morning astronomers in Arizona reported seeing a tiny asteroid, which they described as a new but routine fast-moving object.
Before long, scientists at the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) in Massachusetts had calculated the object was likely to pass within one Earth’s radius of the centre of the planet.
That means it would have struck the surface of the Earth if had been big enough.
Gareth Williams, associate director of the MPC, spoke to AM shortly before the asteroid entered the earth’s atmosphere.
“We estimate that it’s about two meters across with a probable range of one to five metres. Something that small will not survive passage through the atmosphere intact,” he predicted.
The asteroid was due to come down over Sudan in North Africa, at night, in an area with no observatories and few astronomers.
Mr Williams says it will have most likely broken into many small pieces, raining small chunks of rock on the landscape below.
“Many people look up into the night sky and are familiar with seeing meteors,” he said
“Well those are objects the size of a grain of sand burning up in the atmosphere. Something the size of a football will cause a brilliant fireball.
“This thing is two meters across. It’s going to cause a ‘humdinger’ of a fireball.”
Stargazers in Sudan may have also heard the asteroid collide with the atmosphere, making a wooshing or humming sound.
Read more here