An asteroid lit up the night sky over the English Channel after entering the Earth’s atmosphere in the early hours of the morning.
The 3ft meteoroid created a shooting star and an ‘airburst’ that could be seen across southern England and Wales and in parts of northern France as far south as Paris.
The rock, called 2023 CX1, entered the atmosphere around two miles off the French coast at 3am, creating a fireball as it disintegrated into small pieces which landed in the sea.
It was only the seventh time an asteroid strike had been successfully forecast, in what the European Space Agency said was ‘a sign of the rapid advancements in global asteroid detection capabilities’.
For scientists, forecasting harmless asteroids like this morning’s one is seen as good practice for detecting ones that could pose a risk to the planet.
The 3ft rock created a shooting star and an ‘airburst’ that could be seen across southern England and Wales and in parts of northern France as far south as Paris
2023 CX1 was discovered only seven hours before impact by Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky, at Konkoly Observatory in Mátra Mountains, Hungary.
Asteroid 2023 CX1
Diameter: Around 1 metre (3.2 feet)
Discovery date: February 12, 2023
Discovered by: Krisztián Sárneczky
Alternative name: Sar2667
Category: Near-Earth asteroid (NEA)
Sárneczky first imaged it on Sunday night at 20:18 GMT, when it was less than 145,000 miles (233,000 km) from Earth and inside the orbit of the moon.
2023 CX1 entered the atmosphere in the early hours of Monday – 03:00 GMT – and traveled eastward over the coast of Normandy, France along the English Channel.
As it experienced atmospheric drag, it burned as a bright meteor that could be seen from Northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK before entering the sea off the coast of France.
According to the International Meteor Organization, the rock is ‘small’ – only around 3.2 feet (1 metre) in diameter, but it was visible as a ‘nice fireball’.
But had it fallen onto populated French land, 2023 CX1 and its fragments could have seriously hurt someone.
Asteroids are seen as one of the most dangerous natural disasters the planet could experience, especially as there is currently no way to stop them.
As it experienced atmospheric drag, 2023 CX1 burned as a bright meteor before entering the sea
According to the International Meteor Organization, the rock is ‘small’ – only around 1 metre (just over three feet) in diameter, but it was visible as a ‘nice fireball’
2023 CX1 was discovered on Sunday night only seven hours before impact by Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky
It was seen as a bright fireball before entering the sea off the coast of France early Monday morning
An asteroid over 460ft (140 metres) wide would release an amount of energy at least 1,000 times greater than that released by the first atomic bomb if it impacted Earth, according to research from the Davidson Institute of Science, the educational arm of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.
One that is 3,280ft (1km) wide – similar to 138971 (2001 CB21), which flew past the Earth in early March – could trigger a worldwide annihilation and the end of humanity.
However, even smaller asteroids have the potential to cause damage – and the late discovery of 2023 CX1 illustrates how little time we could have to prepare.
That is why NASA’s DART mission has bene exploring the feasibility of diverting the course of an asteroid by crashing a space probe into it.
The mission successfully altered the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos, around 560 feet in diameter, when NASA’s probe hit it in September.
It comes as new research on the first meteorite to be found on UK soil for 30 years has revealed how fast space rocks are contaminated by the Earth’s atmosphere.
The meteorite landed in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, in February 2021 with fragments recovered from a domestic driveway hours after it entered the Earth’s atmosphere.
More pieces were found in a sheep field six days later.
Analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite show the fragments quickly developed salts and minerals from the interaction of their surfaces with the damp environment in which they landed.
The findings from the Winchcombe meteorite, published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science, could help protect new meteorites after they are found.
The asteroid, designated Sar2667, entered the atmosphere around two miles off the French coast at 3am, creating a fireball as it disintegrated
A view of a small asteroid passing through Earth’s atmosphere in Brighton this morning
Lead author, Laura Jenkins, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow said once meteorites are exposed to terrestrial contaminants they change.
She said: ‘Analysis of meteorites can provide insights into the asteroids they come from and how they have formed.
‘Winchcombe and other meteorites like it contain extra-terrestrial water and organics, and the asteroids they come with may be responsible for delivering water to Earth, giving it enough water to form its distinctive oceans.
‘However, when a meteorite is exposed to terrestrial contaminants, especially moisture and oxygen, it undergoes changes, affecting the information it provides.’
Part of the Winchcombe meteorite is now on display at the town’s local museum, which has since trebled visitor numbers.
Explained: The difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks
An asteroid is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.
A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.
A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.
This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small they are vapourised in the atmosphere.
If any of this meteoroid makes it to Earth, it is called a meteorite.
Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.
For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.