The southern coastline of Lake Ontario had to face small meteorites belonging to an asteroid entering the Earth’s atmosphere over the weekend. The main space rock was dubbed 2022 WJ1. It broke up above the surface, while it initially measured only about a meter wide. NASA saw it coming due to the Catalina Sky Survey, and the space agency even calculated the landing spot thanks to the Scout impact hazard assessment system, according to Phys.org.
NASA was even capable of detecting the 2022 WJ1 asteroid a few hours before the impact, which surely gives many people a lot of comfort. If an asteroid measuring only a meter wide could be detected, it should be a lot easier for the space agency in the case of a possible Chicxulub 2.0 space rock. But can it be so simple?
A good exercise
Kelly Fast, the program manager of Near-Earth Object Observations for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) from the NASA Headquarters in Washington, explained as Phys.org quotes:
The planetary defense community really demonstrated their skill and readiness with their response to this short-warning event,
Such harmless impacts become spontaneous real-world exercises and give us confidence that NASA’s planetary defense systems are capable of informing the response to the potential for a serious impact by a larger object.
It was clear from the start that the asteroid in question had a 25% chance of interacting with the atmosphere of our planet. The possible impact locations were various, including Mexico and North America.
According to Shantanu Naidu, who’s the navigation engineer and Scout operator at JPL, small objects such as the 2022 WJ1 asteroid can only be detected by astronomers when they are very close to our planet. This means that paradoxically, they are even more difficult to detect than large asteroids.
In early November, we also shared the news about the largest asteroid spotted by astronomers in years, one that could also collide with Earth at some point in the future.