NASA predicts time and place of small asteroid’s impact with Earth
With less than an hour's worth of data, NASA managed to predict that a two-meter (6.5 ft) asteroid would impact in the Earth's atmosphere on March 11 at 5:23 pm EST, over the Norwegian Sea 300 miles (470 km) off the east coast of Greenland.
The odds of the Earth being hit by an asteroid like the one that put paid to the dinosaurs 65 million years ago are remote, but they obviously aren't zero. If smaller asteroids are included, then the chances of one striking that could cause serious damage go up far enough that NASA and other organizations take a serious interest in how to detect and track such celestial objects.
According to NASA, Asteroid 2022 EB5 wasn't big enough to be a hazard, but it did provide the space agency with only the fifth opportunity to date to track an asteroid at short notice before it hit the Earth's atmosphere. By doing so it was possible to test NASA's automated Scout impact hazard assessment system, which is used to help determine if an asteroid would harmlessly sail by or hit our planet.
Asteroid 2022 EB5 was seen two hours before impact by Krisztián Sárneczky at the Piszkéstető Observatory in northern Hungary. His data was sent to the Minor Planet Center clearing house for measurements of small celestial bodies and posted to the Center's Near-Earth Object Confirmation Page.
With only 40 minutes of data, Scout was able to use these measurements to determine 2022 EB5's trajectory and alerted the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) and NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Scout determined that the asteroid would hit the Earth's atmosphere on March 11, 2022 at 5:23 pm EST and alerted other observers on its webpage. After the asteroid struck at the predicted time, infrasound detectors confirmed its breaking up in the atmosphere.
"Scout had only 14 observations over 40 minutes from one observatory to work with when it first identified the object as an impactor," said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at JPL. "We were able to determine the possible impact locations, which initially extended from western Greenland to off the coast of Norway. As more observatories tracked the asteroid, our calculations of its trajectory and impact location became more precise."
NASA says that had the asteroid been larger, it would have been possible to detect it and track it much earlier and at a much greater distance.
The video below shows 2022 EB5's orbit around the Sun before impacting into the Earth’s atmosphere.