Meteor Strike Forecast for Oct. 6-7

Update October 10, 2008

Click here to see the latest observations of this meteor. The original story, posted on October 6, 2008, continues below.

Many telescopes around the world are dedicated to scanning the sky, looking for asteroids that might potentially hit Earth. Many candidates have been found, and some have received widespread coverage in the mainstream press. But when the trajectories have been computed, all of them have turned out to be false alarms — until now!

Last night (Sunday, October 5th), a telescope on Mount Lemmon, Arizona, detected a tiny moving blip, the signature of a small chunk of rock moving rapidly through space. Twenty-five observations have been done since then by professional and amateur astronomers around the world, and the object's orbit has been pinned down with fairly high precision. It is almost certain to hit Earth's atmosphere around 10:46 p.m. EDT tonight, October 6th. (That's 2:46 a.m. October 7th, Greenwich Mean Time.)

Asteroid 2008 TC3
Taken at 20:32 Universal Time on October 6th, this image shows the car-sized object 2008 TC3 a few hours before it hit Earth's atmosphere. Giovanni Sosterno, V. Gonano, Ernesto Guido, and P. Camilleri tracked their 0.45-meter (18-inch) reflector on the asteroid, so it appears as a point while background stars are trailed. Here, the tiny asteroid is less than half the Earth-Moon distance away.
G.Sosterno & others
The rock is roughly 10 feet (3 meters) across, and it's expected to enter the atmosphere above northern Sudan at about 8 miles (12 km) per second. The energy released should be approximately equal to one kiloton of conventional explosives. Fortunately, no damage is expected, since the blast will take place in the upper atmosphere. Some fragments may fall to the ground, but the area is sparsely inhabited and they're unlikely to hit anyone.

The sight and sound, however, should be amazing — especially since the sky will still be dark when this meteor hits. The fireball may be visible over much of northern Africa, the Middle East, and possibly even southern Europe.

Technical details are available in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular.

8 thoughts on “Meteor Strike Forecast for Oct. 6-7

  1. Tom

    Let’s hope that there are a lot of cameras recording it. I’d really like to see the results. It might help to get more funding for the search for near earth objects.

  2. Tatiana

    Yes, I’m totally in favor of more funding for the NEO search. I also think we really should be working on the mission to deflect or destroy a big one, should we find one incoming. We might not get much advance notice, and major missions like that take many years to be ready. It would totally suck to find one heading down our throats and be unable to mount any sort of defense in time.

    We should deflect them to impact the Moon.

  3. Fred ShumanFred from Laurel, Md

    What really intrigued me about this report, after the mere fact of successful detection of something sizeable being found before it hit, was the impact speed. Given the stated time and place of impact, it will be on the pre-dawn side of Earth. That puts it near the leading point of the planet in our orbit around the Sun (30 km/sec), and you have to do some pretty tight contortions to get a solar orbit for the object that brings it to impact with the Earth at ONLY 12 km/sec! It sort of has to have an orbit nearly in the ecliptic plane and with perihelion inside Earth orbit, and aphelion just about right at Earth orbit. But looking at the IAU circular, it seems that the semimajor axis, a, is 1.27 AU. What gives?

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