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New imminent impactor found by European astronomer
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For the seventh time, a meteoroid has been discovered before impacting the Earth. This one-metre asteroid has been discovered by Krisztián Sárneczky with the 60-cm Schmidt telescope of the Piszkéstető Observatory in Hungary. It is his second discovery of an impactor, after the impact of 2022 EB5 less than a year ago, in March 2022.

At 20:18:07 UTC on 12 February 2023 the new asteroid, now officially designated 2023 CX1, was imaged from Piszkéstető Observatory in Hungary and reported with a second position to the MPC at 20:49 UTC. About 40 minutes later some follow-up observations reported by the Višnjan Observatory in Croatia confirmed the object, and at this point the various impact assessment systems found a 100% impact probability in the area of the English Channel between 02 and 04 UTC. The estimated asteroid size was around 1 meter of diameter and posed no risk of damage for the people in the area.

During the next seven hours astronomers all around the globe observed the object and pinpointed the impact corridor over the English Channel, with a trajectory coming from West to East. The object was observed up to around 10 minutes before impact, only 5 minutes before getting into Earth’s shadow and becoming unobservable. The last image was taken at 02:46:56 UTC, by our collaborators of the Rantiga Observatory in Italy.

The fireball event happened at the predicted time (02:59 UTC) and location, with observations mostly from Southern UK and France, but also from Belgium, the Netherlands and even Germany. It is likely that some fragments of the meteoroid may have survived the atmospheric pass and fell somewhere onshore close to the coast north of Rouen, in Normandy, France.

The team at ESA’s Planetary Defence Office contributed to the event both with the timely notifications from its Meerkat system, and with the use of a network of optical telescopes established for these occasions. The observing facilities were specifically chosen to provide data useful to increase the accuracy in the determination of the impact circumstances. Astrometry from South Africa, quickly after the initial trigger, and later from the US, extended the observational baseline to continents outside Europe, providing larger parallax. Also, in the few minutes before impact, they triggered accurately-timed observations useful to reduce uncertainty of the impact time to less than 1 second.

First impact assessment by ESA’s tool Meerkat as reported at 21:33 UTC with only 7 measurements, already indicating an impact probability of ~100%. Credit: ESA / PDO

First impact corridor reported by ESA’s tool Meerkat as reported at 21:33 UTC, with the actual impact time 02:59 UTC in the middle of the uncertainty window. Credit: ESA / PDO

Asteroid 2023 CX1 entering Earth's atmosphere captured in the skies over the southern Netherlands. Credit: Gijs de Reijke