How meteor showers dispersed in the Kalahari desert
Astronomers have reconstructed the 22 million year journey of an asteroid that passed through the solar system and exploded over Botswana. This is the first time that scientists have traced a rain of space rocks to their source – in this case Vesta, one of the largest bodies in the asteroid belt that surrounds the sun between Jupiter and Mars. The six-ton asteroid struck Earth’s atmosphere at 37,000 mph in June 2018 and shattered above the central Kalahari Game Reserve, creating a fireball almost as bright as the sun. Immediate searches of the alleged landing site found a small meteorite, named Motopi Pan. NASA researchers had tracked the dangerous object as far away as the moon using telescopes in Arizona and Hawaii. After the impact, they asked Australian astronomers to check images from the SkyMapper telescope in New South Wales – used to study black holes and the like – in case it also captured the asteroid’s flight path. . Much to the amazement of researchers, this was the case. Pictures of the asteroid, named 2018LA, from three distant telescopes on the Earth’s surface have allowed astronomers to reconstruct the rock’s trajectory and locate its origin. The trail led to Vesta, a 300 mile wide asteroid that is sometimes visible without a telescope.
THE SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN