First Asteroid Discovered in 2014 Hits Earth's Atmosphere; Burns Up Over Atlantic Ocean

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By sangeetha seshagiri | January 4, 2014 6:41 PM EST

The first asteroid discovered in 2014 entered the Earth's atmosphere late 1 January (2 January Universal time) over the mid-Atlantic ocean, reports NASA.

CSS/LPL/UA
Asteroid 2014 AA (Image credit: CSS/LPL/UA)

Astronomers spotted the small asteroid, designated as 2014 AA, using the 60-inch Mount Lemmon telescope at the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona, early Wednesday morning (1 January).

Using high-precision astrometry data and follow-up observations provided by the Catalina Sky Survey team, orbit analysts determined possible Earth impact locations. According to NASA report, the small asteroid, which was 6 to 9 feet (2 to 3 meters) in size, most likely entered Earth's atmosphere sometime between 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST) Wednesday and 6 a.m. PST (9 a.m. EST) on Thursday

The asteroid is believed to have entered the Earth's atmosphere and burned up over the Atlantic Ocean, possibly somewhere between Africa and Central America, before hitting the ground or sea. "The most likely impact location of the object was just off the coast of West Africa at about 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. EST) Jan. 1," NASA said in a news release.

This is the second time in space history that an asteroid was discovered just hours before it slammed into the Earth's atmosphere. The first was in 2008 when an asteroid labeled as 2008 TC3 was discovered just prior to hitting Earth. Asteroid 2008 TC3, which was about 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) in size, burned up over northern Sudan in October 2008.

"It is unlikely asteroid 2014 AA would have survived atmospheric entry intact, as it was comparable in size to asteroid 2008 TC3," the NASA announcement said.

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(Photo: CSS/LPL/UA / )
Asteroid 2014 AA (Image credit: CSS/LPL/UA)
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