On New Year’s Day, a telescope on the Mount Lemmon Survey in Arizona spotted a blip in the sky in the area of northern Orion, and detection software reported the object to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Despite the alert, however, the asteroid named 2014 AA struck Earth just 22 hours after the object was reported.
The Mount Lemmon Survey is part of the Catalina Sky Survey, which began in 1998 and consists of a consortium of two cooperating surveys: The original Catalina Sky Survey, and the Mount Lemmon Survey. Its telescope is a Cassegrain reflector that was built in the 1960s and first installed at Catalina Station on Mount Bigelow, was later moved to Mount Lemmon in 1972, and then finally rehoused at its current location in 1975. The telescope’s original metal primary mirror was replaced in 1977 with a glass mirror made of Cer-Vit.
The telescope is equipped with a CCD camera built by ImagerLabs which was responsible for the initial discovery of 2014’s first asteroid. The 4,096 x 4,096 pixel camera features a pixel size of 15 µm x 15 µm yielding a plate scale of 0.97 arc seconds per pixel. The camera’s CCD image sensor was thinned at the Steward Observatory Imaging Technology lab.
Based on images captured prior to its impact; 2014 AA averaged 110 million miles from the Sun in a low-inclination orbit that crossed paths with Mars and Earth. 2014 AA, according to Sky & Telescope, was only a few meters across and was unlikely to have reached the ground intact.
View more information on the Mount Lemmon Survey
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