For the first time, astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi have demonstrated that their ATLAS and Pan-STARRS survey telescopes can provide sufficient warning to move people away from the impact site of an incoming asteroid. They detected a small asteroid prior to its entering the Earth’s atmosphere near Puerto Rico on the morning of June 22, 2019.
Astronomers once thought asteroids were boring, wayward space rocks that simply orbit around the Sun. New observations are turning these ideas on their heads, showing that asteroids are anything but dull. Asteroid Gault, discovered in 1998, has begun to slowly disintegrate. The crumbling was first detected on Jan. 5, 2019 by the IfA’s ATLAS telescopes on Maunaloa and Haleakalā. Spectacular images of asteroid 6478 Gault from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope show two narrow, comet-like tails of debris streaming from the diminutive 2.5-mile-wide asteroid.