Astronomers predict shooting star over Sudan from space boulder

PARIS (AFP) — Astronomers said a small space rock was expected to have collided with Earth early Tuesday, which would have created a spectacular fireball over Sudan but was unlikely to have caused any damage on the ground.

The meteoroid, also known as a bolide, was "only about two metres (6.5 feet) across and will break up in the atmosphere," David Morrison, a US astronomer who runs an alert network, the Near Earth Object (NEO) News, said in email late Monday.

The impact by the object, designated 8TA9D69, was calculated to have happened at 0246 GMT on Tuesday over northern Sudan, but confirmation of the strike would come later.

It was expected to be the first time that a bolide has been spotted before impact.

This is important, as it shows the enhanced performance of a surveillance system called Spaceguard to detect rocks that could cross Earth's path. Impacts by large asteroids or comets have the capacity to wipe out cities and regions, and even inflict mass extinction, depending on their size.

A meteoroid is the term for small space debris. When the object hits the atmosphere, the friction causes a fiery streak called a meteor.

Any material that survives the fall is called a meteorite. These small rocks can be extremely valuable, with the finder richly rewarded by the elite club of meteorite collectors.