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First Asteroid of 2014 Spotted

Jan 04, 2014 12:37 PM EST
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The first asteroid discovered in 2014 was first spotted early Jan. 1, roughly 21 hours before it entered the Earth's atmosphere over the mid-Atlantic Ocean.

The asteroid was first seen by the Catalina Sky Survey, operated near Tucson, Ariz. The space object was miniscule in size - just 6-9 feet big, according to the researchers.

Due to the Catalina Sky Survey's quick follow-up and precise data, a team from NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. was able to determine possible impact locations. A team from the University of Western Ontario and SETI Institute discovered weak signals coming from Bolivia, Brazil and Bermuda, indicating that the probable impact site matched the researchers' set of predictions.

The location is still somewhat uncertain due to atmospheric effects on the propagation of infrared signals, which are used to help monitor where atmospheric explosions take place. As it stands now, however, the impact time is being listed as 11:02 p.m. EST, and the location 11.7 degrees north latitude, 39.7 degrees latitude.

According to a statement from NASA, "This information is preliminary and has uncertainties of perhaps a few hundred kilometers, or miles, in location, and tens of minutes in time."

Infrared stations that record ultra-low-frequency sound waves frequently identify airbursts from small asteroid impacts. In all, there are about 1 billion near-Earth objects in the size range of the recently recorded asteroid, with impacts from objects of similar size taking place several times every year.

NASA's Near Earth Object Program is responsible for managing and funding the search and study of asteroids and comets whose orbits carry them close to Earth. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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