The first asteroid to be discovered in space and subsequently observed to impact Earth, asteroid 2008 TC3, exploded at a high 37 km altitude and stopped ablating at 32 km. This would classify the fireball as of Ceplecha's PE-criterion IIIb/a, meaning “cometary” in nature. In this case, the structural weakness may have come from pores found in some of the recovered meteorites, called “Almahata Sitta” (= Station 6 in Arabic). The explosion turned most of the asteroid mass to dust and vapor, only a tiny fraction shattered into macroscopic meteorites, the heaviest of which was 283 gram. Other similarly frail asteroids may be related to main belt comets.
KeywordsMeteoroids; comets; asteroids