Kalahari desert asteroid travelled through space for 22 million years before crash landing

The six-tonne asteroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere and flared through the skies in Botswana, turning into meteorites across the Kalahari desert on June 2, 2018, now has its journey traced back to its origins

The study was published in the Meteoritics and Planetary Science. In their study, the group of astronomers reconstructed the journey of the 22-million-year-old asteroid through the solar system to study its impact on Earth, which is the first time that a study has precisely predicted a pathway.

This recent research provides new information about the solar system’s origins, including a better understanding of its second-largest asteroid and the only one visible to the naked eye,4 Vesta.

In their study, the team mapped the one-way trip of the asteroid, called 2018LA, using two of NASA’s hazardous asteroid-hunting telescopes and the ANU SkyMapper telescope, situated in New South Wales.

CCTV camera footage also captured the final moments of the asteroid, as it engulfed into flames and turned into a fireball hurtling through the sky prior to impact.

The asteroid had a 1.5 metre diameter, weighed about 5,700kg and travelled at around 60,000kph before entering Earth’s atmosphere and crashing into the ground.

The meteorite that was created as the asteroid split into parts under Earth’s atmospheric friction is called Motopi Pan. Around 23 fragments of this meteoroid were picked up from Kalahari Desert for mineralogical analysis.

Scientists found that both Vesta and the meteorite contained Zircon grains that date back to more than 4.5 billion years ago when the Solar System was in its early phase.