Small Asteroid 2008 TC3 Will Hit Earth Tonight

Artist impression of a meteorite entering the Earth's atmosphere (©Leonard Wikberg III)
Artist impression of a meteorite entering the Earth's atmosphere (©Leonard Wikberg III)

A newly discovered asteroid called 2008 TC3 will (with a 99.8-100% probability) hit the atmosphere over northern Sudan at 2:46 UTC (Oct 7th). The piece of rock will not threaten people or structures on the surface, it is likely to burn up during re-entry as a magnificent “air burst.” Estimates suggest that as 2008 TC3 burns up, it will detonate with an energy of a kiloton of TNT.

2008 TC3 is between 1-5 meters in diameter, so it’s not a threat by any means, but it should create a spectacular display. Usually the bright meteors we observe are generated by debris no bigger than a grain of sand, so this will be a huge astronomical event in comparison. The giant meteor will be visible from eastern Africa travelling very quickly from north-east to south-west and it is expected to create a very long trail as it will enter the atmosphere at a very shallow angle.

The end of the road. Asteroid 2008 TC3 will hit Earth on October 7th (JPL Small Body Database)
The end of the road. Asteroid 2008 TC3 will hit Earth on October 7th (JPL Small Body Database)

Observation of 2008 TC3 (it's the spot near the centre, while the background stars appear as streaks). Image by Peter Birtwhistle, Great Shefford Observatory, Berkshire, UK.
Observation of 2008 TC3 (it's the spot near the centre, while the background stars appear as streaks). Image by Peter Birtwhistle, Great Shefford Observatory, Berkshire, UK.

Astrophysicists are very excited by this event as it is the first ever asteroid forecast to hit the Earth. “We’re excited since this is the first time we have issued a prediction that an object will enter Earth’s atmosphere,” said Dr. Timothy Spahr, director of the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

The odds of the rock hitting us have also been publicised; with the prediction that there is a 99.8 to 100% that 2008 TC3 will hit us, I’m betting on the Sudanese skies will play host to one of the most striking shooting star events ever witnessed.

We’re eager for observations from astronomers near the asteroid’s approach path. We really hope that someone will manage to photograph it,” said Gareth Williams of the Minor Planet Center.

Source: CfA

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