NASA Program Predicted Impact of Small Asteroid Over Ontario, Canada - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA Program Predicted Impact of Small Asteroid Over Ontario, Canada - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Nov 22, 2022 2 mins, 44 secs

Roughly 1 meter (3 feet) wide, the asteroid was detected 3 ½ hours before impact, making this event the sixth time in history a small asteroid has been tracked in space before impacting Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA is tasked with the detection and tracking of much larger near-Earth objects that could survive passage through Earth’s atmosphere and cause damage on the ground, but those objects can also be detected much further in advance than small ones like the asteroid that disintegrated over southern Ontario.

Such small asteroids are not a hazard to Earth, but they can be a useful test for NASA’s planetary defense capabilities for discovery, tracking, orbit determination, and impact prediction.

“The planetary defense community really demonstrated their skill and readiness with their response to this short-warning event,” said Kelly Fast, Near-Earth Object Observations program manager for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“Such harmless impacts become spontaneous real-world exercises and give us confidence that NASA’s planetary defense systems are capable of informing the response to the potential for a serious impact by a larger object.”.

CNEOS calculates every known near-Earth asteroid orbit to provide assessments of potential impact hazards in support of NASA’s PDCO.

Seven minutes after the asteroid was posted on the confirmation page, Scout had determined it had a 25% probability of hitting Earth’s atmosphere, with possible impact locations stretching from the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of North America to Mexico.

“Small objects such as this one can only be detected when they are very close to Earth, so if they are headed for an impact, time is of the essence to collect as many observations as possible,” said Shantanu Naidu, navigation engineer and Scout operator at JPL.

“This object was discovered early enough that the planetary defense community could provide more observations, which Scout then used to confirm the impact and predict where and when the asteroid was going to hit.”.

As Catalina continued to track the asteroid over the next few hours, Scout used this new data to continually update the asteroid’s trajectory and the system’s assessment of the chance of impact, posting those results on the hazard-assessment system’s webpage.

A group of amateur astronomers at Farpoint Observatory in Eskridge, Kansas, tracked the asteroid for more than an hour, providing critical additional data that enabled Scout to confirm a 100% impact probability and determine the expected location of atmospheric entry as being over southern Ontario at 3:27 a.m.

Earlier this year, asteroid 2022 EB5 entered the atmosphere over the Norwegian Sea after Scout accurately predicted its location, becoming the fifth object to be detected before impact.

As surveys become more sophisticated and sensitive, more of these harmless objects are being detected before entering the atmosphere, providing real exercises for NASA’s planetary defense program.

More information about CNEOS, asteroids, and near-Earth objects can be found at:.

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