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NASA's Scout System successfully predicts small asteroid impact over Germany
This map shows the location where the small asteroid 2024 BX1 harmlessly impacted Earth's atmosphere over Germany, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) west of Berlin, on Jan. 21. The successful prediction and observation of asteroid 2024 BX1 underscore the effectiveness and importance of NASA's ongoing efforts in planetary defense. Systems like Scout are essential for early detection and tracking, providing critical data that helps mitigate potential threats from space and ensuring the safety of our planet.
NASA's Scout System successfully predicts small asteroid impact over Germany
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jan 25, 2024

In a recent demonstration of NASA's advancing planetary defense capabilities, a small asteroid, approximately 3 feet (1 meter) in size, disintegrated harmlessly over Germany. This event occurred on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 1:32 a.m. local time (CET). Notably, NASA's Scout impact hazard assessment system provided a 95-minute advance warning of the asteroid's impact trajectory, marking this event as the eighth instance in history where a small Earth-bound asteroid was detected in space before entering and disintegrating in our atmosphere.

The asteroid, later designated 2024 BX1, produced a bright fireball, or bolide, visible from as far as the Czech Republic. It may have scattered small meteorites near the impact site approximately 37 miles (60 kilometers) west of Berlin.

While NASA's focus remains on near-Earth objects (NEOs) of all sizes, the agency has a particular mandate from Congress to detect and track NEOs 140 meters in size and larger. These larger objects pose a significant risk if they were to impact Earth. However, smaller asteroids like 2024 BX1, despite posing no hazard to life, offer valuable opportunities to test and demonstrate NASA's planetary defense systems.

The detection of 2024 BX1 was made possible by Krisztian Sarneczky at the Piszkesteto Mountain Station of the Konkoly Observatory near Budapest, Hungary. The asteroid was first observed less than three hours before its impact.

These early observations were promptly reported to the Minor Planet Center, the internationally recognized hub for tracking small solar system bodies, and subsequently posted on the center's Near-Earth Object Confirmation Page. This quick reporting facilitated additional observations by astronomers across Europe.

Scout, developed and operated by the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, played a crucial role in predicting this impact. The system automatically fetched the new data, calculating the object's potential trajectory and impact probability. CNEOS, responsible for calculating the orbit of every known NEO, provides these assessments to the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The rapid data collection and analysis by Scout were instrumental. With just three observations posted over 27 minutes, Scout initially identified the possibility of an impact and signaled the need for urgent additional observations. As more data was reported, the asteroid's trajectory became clearer, and the likelihood of it impacting Earth increased significantly. Within 70 minutes of the first observation, Scout reported a 100% probability of Earth impact, continuously refining the predicted location and time as more data flowed in.

The first asteroid to be discovered and tracked before impacting Earth was 2008 TC3, which broke up over Sudan in October 2008. This 13-foot-wide (4-meter-wide) asteroid scattered hundreds of meteorites across the Nubian Desert. Another small asteroid, 2023 CX1, was detected seven hours before it entered Earth's atmosphere over northwestern France in early 2023. Like 2024 BX1, Scout accurately predicted the location and time of impact for 2023 CX1.

As NEO surveys become increasingly sophisticated and sensitive, more of these harmless objects are being detected before they enter Earth's atmosphere. These detections are not just a testament to the technological advances but also provide practical scenarios for NASA's planetary defense program. The information gleaned from such events is crucial in shaping the agency's mitigation strategies for larger, potentially hazardous objects that may be detected on a collision course with Earth in the future.

Related Links
NASA Scout
Minor Planet Cente
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology

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Nuclear deflection simulations advance planetary defense against asteroid threats
Livermore CA (SPX) Dec 21, 2023
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a modeling tool for assessing the potential use of a nuclear device to defend the planet against catastrophic asteroid impacts. The research, published in the Planetary Science Journal, introduces a novel approach to simulating the energy deposition from a nuclear device on an asteroid's surface. This new tool improves our understanding of the nuclear deflection's radiation interactions on the asteroid's surface while open ... read more

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