European skywatchers were stunned at a fireball entering Earth's atmosphere on February 13. Multiple video angles were captured from various locations.
Krisztian Sarneczky, an asteroid hunter working at the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest, Hungary, discovered the asteroid only hours before it began its descent to Earth. According to reports, Sarneczky forwarded the appropriate information to the European Space Agency (ESA), which determined the asteroid measured 3.2 feet wide and was called SAR 2667. Sarneczky explained to Space.com that the small space rock was discovered during a routine Near-Earth Object (NEO) check.
The asteroid plummeted to Earth at 10 p.m. EST on February 12 (0300 GMT February 13), and there have been at least 61 sightings of its bright entry. From the above and below video footage captured by skywatchers, the space rock can be seen growing in brightness, completely lighting up the sky for a brief moment before disappearing into the darkness. The American Meteor Society confirmed the reports from residents, which spanned across England, Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
"I discovered this small body during a routine NEO [near Earth object] hunt. It was immediately obvious that it was an NEO, but it wasn't particularly fast across the sky, as it was heading right towards us, and it was faint," wrote Sarneczky to Space.com.
It should be noted the fireball event seen across Europe coincidentally fell almost 10 years to the day as the fireball that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15, 2013. However, the Chelyabinsk fireball was much larger than SAR 2667, measuring approximately 59 feet in diameter.
The Chelyabinsk asteroid exploded in Earth's atmosphere as it got closer to the surface, releasing the energy equivalent of around 440,000 tons of TNT, which generated a shock wave that blew out windows over 200 square miles. The explosion injured 1,600 people, which were mostly injured by broken glass, and damaged more than 7,200 buildings.
Similar to the SAR 2667 event, there was hardly any warning with the Chelyabinsk asteroid. Following the Chelyabinsk event, many entities, such as NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and various governments, began to take asteroid searching much more seriously. In response to the Chelyabinsk event in the following years, NASA opened the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, a department responsible for providing timely and accurate information to the government, the media, and the public on close approaches to Earth.
While NEO tracking efforts around the world have certainly amped up, there are still many improvements that can be made. NASA has previously stated that it has already discovered any asteroids with the potential to cause an Extinction Level Event (ELE) for the next 100 years. However, the space agency believes it needs to look further into space and perform orbital predictions on objects that may not necessarily be an immediate threat to Earth but may turn into a very serious threat in the future.