Asteroid 2018 LA snuck up on our planet and smashed into Earth's atmosphere on June 2. The asteroid mostly burned up, but a team of geoscientists found a fresh meteorite fragment from the visitor and now hope to learn more about its origins.
The under-the-radar asteroid was only about 6 feet (2 meters) across and was spotted just hours before it reached us. It exploded into a eye-catching fireball over Botswana in Africa.
Meteor expert Peter Jenniskens with the SETI Insitute and members of the meteor-monitoring Finnish Fireball Network calculated the landing area for possible fragments. They used security surveillance videos of the fireball to help narrow down the location.
Scientists from several Botswana institutions searched the debris zone in a protected game area for five days before finding the small meteorite chunk on June 23. The piece is smaller than a key fob for a car. The team plans to continue the search for more fragments.
"This is the third time in history that an asteroid inbound to hit Earth was detected early and only the second time that fragments were recovered," notes the University of Helsinki in Finland in a Friday release on the discovery.
The university says the rare fragment will be studied for clues as to where the asteroid originated. This knowledge could help us better track small, hard-to-detect space objects like 2018 LA that are on a collision course with Earth.