First 2014 asteroid discovered

January 3, 2014
This animated GIF shows Asteroid 2014 AA, discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on Jan. 1, 2014, as it moved across the sky. Credit: CSS/LPL/UA

Early Wednesday morning (Jan. 1, 2014), while New Year's 2014 celebrations were still underway in the United States, the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., collected a single track of observations with an immediate follow-up on what was possibly a very small asteroid—7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) in size—on a potential impact trajectory with Earth.

Designated 2014 AA, which would make it the first discovery of 2014, the track of on the object allowed only an uncertain orbit to be calculated. However, if this was a very small asteroid on an Earth-impacting trajectory, it most likely entered Earth's atmosphere sometime between 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST) Wednesday and 6 a.m. PST (9 a.m. EST) Thursday.

Using the only available observations, three independent projections of the possible orbit by the independent orbit analyst Bill Gray, of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., and Steve Chesley, of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are in agreement that 2014 AA would hit Earth's atmosphere. According to Chesley, the potential impact locations are widely distributed because of the uncertainty, falling along an arc extending from Central America to East Africa. The most likely impact location of the object was just off the coast of West Africa at about 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. EST) Jan. 1.

It is unlikely asteroid 2014 AA would have survived atmospheric entry intact, as it was comparable in size to asteroid 2008 TC3, which was about 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) in size. 2008 TC3 completely broke up over northern Sudan in October 2008. Asteroid 2008 TC3 is the only other example of an object discovered just prior to hitting Earth. So far, there have been a few weak signals collected from infrasound stations in that region of the world that are being analyzed to see if they could be correlated to the atmospheric entry of 2014 AA.

Explore further: Asteroid To Fly By Earth Wednesday Is a Natural

Related Stories

Asteroid To Fly By Earth Wednesday Is a Natural

January 13, 2010

( -- Asteroid 2010 AL30, discovered by the LINEAR survey of MIT's Lincoln Laboratories on Jan. 10, will make a close approach to the Earth's surface to within 76,000 miles on Jan. 13 at 12:46 pm Greenwich time ...

Small Near-Earth Object Probably a Rocket Part

May 28, 2010

( -- Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have determined that a small object that safely passed Earth on May 21 is more than likely an ...

Russia meteor not linked to asteroid flyby

February 17, 2013

New information provided by a worldwide network of sensors has allowed scientists to refine their estimates for the size of the object that entered that atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, ...

Asteroid 2013 TV135: A reality check

October 18, 2013

( —Newly discovered asteroid 2013 TV135 made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 16, when it came within about 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers). The asteroid is initially estimated to be about 1,300 feet ...

Near-Earth Object 2013 US10 is a long-period comet

November 19, 2013

While initial reports from the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., categorized object 2013 US10 as a very large near-Earth asteroid, new observations now indicate that it is, in fact, a long-period comet, and it is now ...

Retrieving an asteroid

December 27, 2013

( —Asteroids (or comets) whose orbits bring them close to the earth's orbit are called near Earth objects. Some of them are old, dating from the origins of the solar system about four and one-half billion years ...

Recommended for you

Hubble captures a galactic waltz

November 26, 2015

This curious galaxy—only known by the seemingly random jumble of letters and numbers 2MASX J16270254+4328340—has been captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope dancing the crazed dance of a galactic merger. The ...

Earth might have hairy dark matter

November 23, 2015

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought. A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.