Small asteroid caused surprise fireball over Africa this weekend

Over the weekend, a small asteroid was detected shortly before entering Earth's atmosphere, where it appeared as a giant fireball. The space rock, which scientists have named 2018 LA, was spotted only a few hours before it hit Earth. The fireball was visible in and around Botswana, Africa, a little before 1PM local time.

Researchers around the world are working to track Near Earth Objects, more commonly called NEOs, but the work involves large asteroids that could cause major issues for the planet. These smaller asteroids manage to slip into the atmosphere on occasion, where they're usually spotted as fireballs streaking across the sky.

Rarely these smaller space rocks can cause issues, such as was the case in Russia a few years back, but they typically land in the ocean or in rural regions. Other instances of space objects entering Earth's atmosphere leave no presence on the land as the debris fully burns up.

According to NASA, the LA 2018 asteroid was detected early on Saturday, June 2. Researchers were able to determine various regions where it may impact, and it ultimately passed into the atmosphere over Botswana. According to the space agency, the asteroid was flying at an incredible 38,000MPH when it hit the atmosphere.

Catalina Sky Survey astronomers in Arizona estimate the asteroid measured around 6ft in size, meaning it likely fully burned up during its descent. According to NASA, an automated alert was sent to the Planetary Defense Coordination Office in Washington, however it was quickly determined that the asteroid was harmless. This is only the third time an asteroid has been spotted with an impact trajectory.