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First asteroid of 2014 hits Earth

16 January 2014, 13:29

Nairobi - A small asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere over the mid-Atlantic ocean this year, a sky survey team reported.

According to a report by Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the asteroid, named 2014 AA, passed over the mid-Atlantic Ocean and probably broke up.

The asteroid which measured only 2m - 3m in size was spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey and entered Earth's atmosphere on 2 January, making it the first asteroid of 2014.

Asteroids regularly pass Earth's orbit and potentially, they could cause damage if they crashed into the surface.

There are two more asteroids due to pass Earth on Tuesday - but they will miss the planet by between 25 and 22 million kilometres.

Most of the large asteroids can be tracked, but small ones are sometimes able to escape detection until they are close or even impact.

Objects that enter the Earth's atmosphere usually create brilliant fireballs because they are travelling fast - speeds of 40 000km/h are not uncommon.

The European Space Agency recently set up the NEO (Near-Earth Object) Co-ordination Centre located at Italy. The facility will monitor objects that could threaten the Earth and is part of the European Space Research Institute. 

- News24


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