NASA warning system provides for the collision of the Earth with a small asteroid

On March 11, 2022, a small asteroid 2022 EB5 crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere over the Norwegian Sea. But this event was not unexpected for astronomers, because its trajectory was precisely foreseen long before the event. 

The fall of a small asteroid to Earth. Illustration: Pexels

Employees of the Hungarian observatory noticed it and transmitted the information to the “Minor Planet Center” (MPC), which, after additional measurements, confirmed that it was a previously unknown asteroid. Then the NASA Scout collision hazard assessment system made the first measurements to calculate the trajectory of 2022 EB5. As soon as the potential danger of a collision with 2022 EB5 appeared, the system automatically notified the “Center for Near-Earth Object Studies” (CNEOS). CNEOS calculates every known near-Earth orbit of an asteroid to improve the collision hazard assessment with the support of the Office for Planetary Defense Coordination.

Accurate forecast

Scout has determined that 2022 EB5 will enter the atmosphere southwest of the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen, located almost 470 kilometers from the east coast of Greenland and northeast of Iceland. On March 11, 2022 EB5 crashed into the earth’s atmosphere, as Scout assumed. Infrasound detectors confirmed that the collision occurred at the scheduled time.

According to observations, the size of 2022 EB5 is estimated at about 2 meters. Tiny asteroids of this size become bright enough to be detected just in the last few hours before the collision. They are much smaller than the objects that NASA instructs to detect and warn about them. A larger asteroid with destructive collision potential will be detected much further from Earth.

NASA Scout worked perfectly

The goal of NASA Scout is to track such asteroids and calculate their trajectories in order to warn of a potential impact for many years, if it is ever identified. But this event in the real world with a very small asteroid allowed the planetary defense community to work out the possibilities and gave some confidence that collision prediction models would be able to inform about a potential impact of a larger object in advance. 

2022 EB5 is only the fifth small asteroid discovered in space before it collided with the Earth’s atmosphere. The first asteroid discovered and tracked long before it collided with Earth was 2008 TC3, which entered the atmosphere over Sudan and disintegrated in October 2008. This asteroid, 4 meters wide, crumbled into hundreds of small meteorites over the Nubian Desert.

Earlier we reported on how a small asteroid could fall to Earth in 2046.

According to NASA

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