An asteroid turned into a blazing fireball as it disintegrated over southern Africa last weekend, just hours after it was first spotted.
The boulder-size asteroid was discovered on Saturday morning, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies. Dubbed 2018 LA, the asteroid was estimated to be about 6 feet across, which is small enough to safely disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere.
2018 LA was first detected by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., which is funded by NASA and is operated by the University of Arizona.
“Reports of a bright fireball above Botswana, Africa, early Saturday evening match up with the predicted trajectory for the asteroid,” explained NASA, in a statement. Traveling at 38,000 mph, the asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere at 6:44 p.m. local Botswana time (12:44 p.m. EDT).
The space rock disintegrated several miles above the Earth’s surface. Videos posted to YouTube reportedly show the fireball streaking across the night sky, including one captured on a South African farm’s security camera.
A small chunk of an asteroid or comet is also known as a meteoroid. When it enters Earth's atmosphere, it becomes a meteor or fireball or shooting star. The pieces of rock that hit the ground, valuable to collectors, are meteorites.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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