Report on the Impact of 2008 TC3

The Near-Earth Object Program office at NASA-JPL has just released a report about the impact of 2008 TC3. TC3 was the small asteroid discovered less than a day before entering the Earth’s atmosphere over northern Sudan. The text of the report can be found at:

Some highlights from the report include …

  • Discovered on 2008 Oct 6 at 6:39 UT by Richard Kowalski at the Catalina Sky Survey using the Mount Lemmon 1.5-m telescope, north of Tucson, Arizona
  • 26 observatories reported 570 astrometric (positional) observations
  • 2008 TC3 entered the atmosphere on 2008 Oct 7 at 2:45:40 UT
  • It detonated (exploded) 5 seconds later due to the high pressure of rapidly moving through the Earth’s dense atmosphere
  • TC3 was moving at 12.4 km/s when it hit the atmosphere. That’s 7.4 miles/s or 26,640 miles per hour!
  • It was tumbling as it moved through space and rotated about two axes with periods of only 97 and 49 seconds. Those periods are how long a “day” (sunrise to sunrise) would have lasted on TC3. This is not uncommon for small asteroids.
  • It was the first natural body other than the Moon to be eclipsed by the Earth. It entered Earth’s shadow an hour before it hit the atmosphere.
  • TC3 detonated at a rather high altitude for a large fireball (37 km or 22 miles or 117,000 feet). This suggests that TC3 was rather weak when compared to most asteroids/meteorites.
  • The fireball and/or flash was observed by a European weather satellite, US Defense satellites, a KLM flight crew and a video security camera in southern Egypt.