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Small Asteroid Strikes Botswana

by Shelby Hawkins on June 20, 2018

A meteor was spotted above Botswana, Africa Saturday evening. Entering the atmosphere at 6:44 Botswana time, it hurled toward the earth traveling 38,000 miles per hour.

Scientists discovered the 6-foot-wide asteroid just hours prior to it striking earth. Follow up observations allowed astronomers to pinpoint a probable collision course to southern Africa.

You can see a video of the asteroid striking earth below.

NASA tracks 90 percent of near-earth objects that are larger than 150 meters in diameter. Unfortunately, smaller ones often remain undetected until they are closer by.

Most recently, a meteor named 2018 LA was discovered June 2nd over Arizona by the Catalina Sky Survey. It was close to the moon before researchers realized it was on a collision course to earth. They were then able to figure out probable locations for where it would strike.

This small rock confirms that we should be worrying about the more moderately sized asteroids that are more likely to strike earth rather than the grandiose, potentially hazardous rocks being tracked by NASA.

Small asteroids typically strike with little to no warning.

While meteor hits like these do not usually cause much damage, there are instances like the Chelyabinsk meteor.

In 2013 the meteor disintegrated 100 metres above Russia.

David A. Kring, a scientist with the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, documented all off what we now know about the asteroid that disintegrated above the Russia-Kazakhstan border.

Once the rock began being influenced by the earth’s gravitational force, things got a bit unusual. Kring and Boslough write:

The Chelyabinsk asteroid first felt the presence of Earth’s atmosphere when it was thousands of kilometers above the Pacific Ocean. For the next dozen minutes, the 10 000-ton rock fell swiftly, silently, and unseen, passing at a shallow angle through the rarefied exosphere where the molecular mean free path is much greater than the 20-m diameter of the rock. Collisions with molecules did nothing to slow the gravitational acceleration as it descended over China and Kazakhstan. When it crossed over the border into Russia at 3:20:20 UT and was 100 km above the ground, 99.99997% of the atmosphere was still beneath it.

Because the asteroid was moving much faster than air molecules could get out of its way, the molecules began to pile up into a compressed layer of high-temperature plasma pushing a shock wave forward. Atmospheric density increases exponentially with depth, so as the asteroid plunged, the plasma layer thickened and its optical opacity rapidly increased. About one second later, at 95 km above the surface, it became bright enough to be seen from the ground. That was the first warning that something big was about to happen.

Should We Be Worried?

What happened over Russia was frightening, but it is also very unlikely occur again, at least not within the near future. The odds of even being harmed by a meteor is also extremely low.

According to National Geographic, dying from a meteor strike is a 1 in 1,600,000 chance.

One known instance occurred In 2016 when a bus driver was reportedly killed by a meteor in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

In 1992 a fireball hit a woman’s parked car in Peekskill, New York.

Another unlucky woman by the name Ann Hodges was struck by a space rock in 1954 in Sylacauga, Alabama.

Anyway, incidents like these should not be the main cause of concern to people. There’s a greater chance that we’ll experience a lightning strike or a shark attack.

 

Featured Image via Pixabay

 

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Shelby Hawkins
My name is Shelby, like the mustang, and I am an avid lover of photography, literature and desserts. I identify as a proud feminist and Pan-Africanist; hopefully that manifests in my writing.
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