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| Earth on Jan 02, 2014
This is only the second time that astronomers spotted an asteroid before it struck Earth’s atmosphere. It underscores the need to be watching for these objects.

Astronomers say that a very small asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere on January 2, 2014, after being discovered only one day before. They’ve labeled the object 2014 AA, because it’s the first asteroid to have been discovered this year. The Minor Planet Center announced that the asteroid struck Earth’s atmosphere at around 05:00 UTC on January 2. That’s around midnight, early morning on January 2 on the U.S. East. The asteroid – which is believed to have been from about 1 to 5 meters across – is thought to have burned up over the Atlantic Ocean, probably off the coast of western Africa.

Map of the possible impact points of 2014 AA, produced by astronomer Bill Gray.  The asteroid could have impacted Earth's atmosphere anywhere along this line.  Most likely landing place is off the west coast of Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean.

Map of the possible impact points of 2014 AA, produced by astronomer Bill Gray. The asteroid could have impacted Earth’s atmosphere anywhere along this line. Most likely landing place is off the west coast of Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean.

Map of the possible impact points of 2014 AA, produced by astronomer Bill Gray.  The asteroid could have impacted Earth's atmosphere anywhere along this line.  Most likely landing place is off the west coast of Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean.

Map of the possible impact points of 2014 AA, produced by astronomer Bill Gray. The asteroid could have impacted Earth’s atmosphere anywhere along this line. Most likely landing place is off the west coast of Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean.

This is only the second time ever that astronomers were able to spot an asteroid before it struck Earth’s atmosphere. The first time was in 2008, when the object known as 2008 TC3 burned up over Sudan in Africa. Like 2014 AA, that object was discovered just a day before it entered Earth’s atmosphere.

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