The race to track the path of asteroid 2024 BX1’s collision with Earth
- On January 20, 2024, astronomer Krysztian Sarnitzky discovered an asteroid on an imminent collision course with Earth.
- Just hours later, it struck our planet’s atmosphere 50 kilometers west of Berlin, producing a stunning fireball.
- Called 2024 BX1, this asteroid is the eighth asteroid spotted by humanity before the impact – and the third discovered by Szarnieczky.
Discovery of asteroid 2024 BX1
It was 22:48 CET on Saturday 20 January when veteran asteroid hunter Sarnitsky discovered a new asteroid using the 60cm Schmidt telescope at the Beskestitu mountain station, part of the Konkoly Observatory in Hungary.
He immediately sent his data about the asteroid’s path to the Minor Planet Center, but with only three preliminary observations, it was impossible to know whether it was on a collision course with Earth.
However, Sarniczky continued to track the asteroid, and just a few minutes later, he shared four more observations that clearly indicated a 100% chance of an imminent collision.
Global response and impact
Automatic impact monitoring systems around the world, including ESA’s MeerKAT, responded to this new data and sprang into action, issuing an alert to astronomers and asteroid experts.
Szarnieczky continued to make and report his observations, and others in Europe soon joined him. More than a dozen observatories turned their eyes toward the incoming object. With their help, it soon became clear that the small asteroid, about one meter in size, would collide with Earth in less than two hours, about 50 kilometers west of Berlin, Germany.
Asteroids of this size hit Earth on average every two weeks. They pose no significant danger, and most have never been discovered. But they can help us understand how many small asteroids are out there, and we can study the fireballs they produce to determine what they’re made of, if we capture them with a camera.
Fortunately, large asteroids several kilometers in diameter are much easier to detect and are relatively rare. The vast majority of near-Earth asteroids that would cause devastating damage if they hit our planet have already been detected, and we don’t know which ones will hit our planet in at least the next 100 years.
The event and its importance
As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, astronomers continued to track asteroid 2024 BX1 until it entered Earth’s shadow at 01:25 CET and disappeared from sight.
The observers held their breath, but they did not have to wait long. Just a few minutes later, at 01:32 CET, 2024 BX1 struck Earth’s atmosphere and burned an explosive streak across the night sky. Many people in the Berlin area and throughout Central Europe were able to witness the fireball, and a small number of people and automated camera systems were also able to record it.
Late in the evening of January 20, 2024, astronomer Christian Sarnitsky discovered an asteroid on an imminent collision course with Earth. Just hours later, it struck our planet’s atmosphere 50 kilometers west of Berlin, producing this stunning fireball at 01:32 CET, Sunday 21 January. Later named 2024 BX1, it is the eighth asteroid observed by humanity before the impact. Thanks to the rapid response and information-sharing from the asteroid and fireball communities on Earth, including ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre, many people were able to see and record this amazing spectacle, despite it occurring only hours after notice and in the middle of the night. . the night. This video was captured by AllSky7 Network. Credit: ALLSKY7/Circo Molau – AMS16 Kitzur
Only eight asteroids were discovered before they collided with Earth’s atmosphere. The first of these discoveries was made in 2008, and four have been discovered in just the past two years. As humanity’s ability to detect smaller space objects continues to improve, this number is likely to rise significantly in the coming years.
During the three hours between discovery and impact, about 180 observations were submitted to the Minor Planet Center, including those of the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Center taken from Tenerife, Spain.
Thanks to the rapid response and sharing of information from the asteroid and fireball communities on Earth, many people were able to see and record this amazing spectacle, despite it occurring only hours after notice and in the middle of the night.
A search is now underway for any possible meteorites that survived the fiery journey through the atmosphere and reached Earth.
For more on this story, see Small asteroid discovered on imminent collision course with Earth.