Feeds

'Nanodiamond' asteroid tracked from space to desert impact

Rare meteor from mystery ureilite mother-planetoid

Intelligent flash storage arrays

An international alliance of astronomers are exceedingly chuffed to announce the first occasion of an asteroid being tracked from space, through impact with the Earth's atmosphere and thence to recovery of fragments on the ground.

"Any number of meteorites have been observed as fireballs and smoking meteor trails as they come through the atmosphere," says Douglas Rumble of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory. "It's been happening for years. But to actually see this object before it gets to the Earth's atmosphere and then to follow it in – that's the unique thing."

Catalina Sky Survey images showing how asteroid 2008 TC3 was detected

Watch the skies, robot.

The space object in question, catchily named 2008 TC3, was first picked up last October by automated sky-watching telescopes belonging to the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson in Arizona. Observatories and amateur astronomers worldwide then tracked the 80-tonne asteroid until it passed into the Earth's shadow just hours later, refining information on its trajectory. Shortly thereafter, 2008 TC3 ploughed into the atmosphere above northern Africa and exploded, scattering bits of itself all over Sudan's Nubian Desert.

British boffins at the UK government's William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands, alerted to the inbound asteroid, managed to get spectroscope readings on it - offering valuable clues as to 2008 TC3's composition.

"These observations were technically quite difficult since the object was moving fast across the sky," according to Dr Gavin Ramsay from Armagh Observatory. "However, the William Hershel Telescope rose to the challenge magnificently and demonstrated just what a versatile telescope it is. There was a keen sense of excitement in the control room."

After the "car sized" space lump blew up, boffins calculated the impact point for any remaining astro-shrapnel. Dr Peter Jenniskens of the SETI institute in California teamed up with Dr Muawia Shaddad and 45 students and staff from the University of Khartoum to mount a desert search for surviving fragments. Some 47 meteorites were found during expeditions which began last December.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.