First Images of Asteroid 2008 TC3 Impact Aftermath

Article written: 8 Nov , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015


A month after asteroid 2008 TC3 hit the Earth’s atmosphere, the first ground-based image of the event has surfaced on the Internet. Admittedly, it’s not the fireball everyone has been waiting to see, but it is visual evidence that something hit us above Sudan on October 7th. The image above was taken from a frame of video that was being recorded by Mr. Mohamed Elhassan Abdelatif Mahir in the dawn following the asteroid impact with the atmosphere. The smoky feature is the remnant of the fireball as the 3 meter-wide asteroid blasted through the upper atmosphere, eventually exploding. The long-lasting persistent train is seen hanging in the air, high altitude winds causing it to twist in the morning sunlight.

We may not have a dazzling fireball re-entry video of 2008 TC3, but this striking image provides the first ground-based evidence of the direct hit, and may help refine the search for any meteorites from the disintegrated asteroid…

Although details are sketchy, it would appear that a person on the ground observed the skies of Sudan shortly after 2008 TC3 exploded in the upper atmosphere. It is unclear whether the observer was part of a meteorite-hunting team, or a Sudanese resident videoing the scene, but it is very fortunate he captured this footage. Dr. Muawia H. Shaddad of the University of Karthoum communicated this single frame, and the picture is being showcased as the November 8th NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.

It is currently the only ground-based evidence that something hit the Earth at the right time and right location as predicted by scientists using the Mount Lemmon telescope in Arizona as part of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey for near-Earth objects. However, as Nancy reported on October 13th, indirect support for an atmospheric fireball came from a webcam on a beach in Egypt. Also, at 02:43 UTC on that Tuesday morning, an infrasound array in Kenya detected an explosion in the atmosphere (with an energy equivalent of 1.1–2.1 kT of TNT). These observations were backed up by the European weather satellite METEOSAT-8, capturing the fireball from orbit. The pilot of a KLM airliner also witnessed a bright flash, 750 miles from the impact location.

This was the first time that an asteroid has been discovered before it hit the Earth, thereby proving an early-warning system for future asteroid impacts is possible. Although there are 5-10 space rock collision events per year, this is the first time we knew something about it before it happened. This is an amazing achievement as 2008 TC3 was only 3 meters in diameter.

To aid the search for any 2008 TC3 debris, is hoping this image of the aftermath of the October 7th impact will jog any potential witness memories of the African skies a month ago:

Readers, were you in Sudan on Oct. 7th? Send your fireball reports and photos to meteor expert Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute. Your data could improve the chances of recovering meteorites.

Sources:,, NASA APOD

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Hello! My name is Ian O’Neill and I’ve been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog:, be sure to check it out!

21 Responses

  1. Alonzo says

    Doesn’t look any different than when the military tests missles in New Mexico

  2. marcellus says

    It doesn’t look like much to me.

  3. RetardedFishFrog says

    Attention readers of UT in Sudan. Meteorites are worth money! Find all you can!

  4. marcellus says

    Good point, Mars Man. To me it looks like the person that took the picture whatched the meteor come in, then waited a few minutes to take this picture. In the meantime, the upper level winds took care of the trail to where it became nearly unrecognizable.

    Whoever took it must have been rich to even have a camera in the Sudan.

  5. Odisea Cosmica Blog says

    Nice, you wake up in the morning and see that through the window wao!!!

    I guess this may be a rocky asteroid because it exploded after arriving ground

  6. Mr. Obvious says

    What is it like, to look at this picture and not be able to take in all the variables? If you don’t get it… you don’t get it. Can’t teach brilliance.

  7. marcellus says

    This article is really a telling comment on the status of astronomy in the Sudan. If this would have happened over North America, The internet would have been flooded with images.

    And in a country with REALLY dark skies, too.

  8. Tom says

    Kind of like the leftovers of a shuttle launch….but the shuttle was going up not down!

    Click my name to see my photo from the STS-117 launch.


  9. Mars Man says

    I think it depends on which part of Sudan it fell on if anybody is interested or able to search for the resulting debris. Alot more important things to worry about over there, like finding food, water, and not getting shot by roving bandits….

  10. dave says

    With the world now so camera ready, it is wonderful to see things captured and shared that would have been lost. Thanks to you all that photo the skies and share it’s sights

  11. Mike Johnson says

    It’s hard to picture how an object entering the atmosphere at hyper velocity could result in such a wildly meandering trail. If the winds aloft are so strong and varied in direction-enough to twist a straight trail into THAT- then wouldn’t it break it up into just wisps?

  12. Tony Jifkins says

    I was in Aswan, in Egypt 2 weeks after this event and all the people in the tour group I was with witnessed 2 fireballs in the sky. Could it be possible that parts of the asteroid were still spinning around the earth 2 weeks after it exploded?

  13. george jarrett says

    you guys/gals who are leaving your weak responses here, eg: “doesn’t look like much to me.”
    are missing the point. The photo was not taking to convince you of visible evidence of the object, it was taking to convince you that something DID hit Earth and that we now may have the capability of spotting it before it strikes and maybe prevent earthly casualties.
    Get with the program, thank you!

  14. george jarrett says

    Marcellus, I know this blog is not intended for our personal thoughts on other humans of this planet, but I’d like to say: all citizens of Sudan are not poor, all are not involved in the silly war going on there. please, dont use this blog for your racist and inhuman thoughts. Some may have as much finances as you or me. You seem to know only what you read from the media,,, and when it comes to African nation, that is not much.

  15. marcellus says

    Thank you, Mr. Jackson.

  16. Mike Jackson says

    George Jarrett,

    I’m very sympathetic to the idea that Universe Today would be better off if commenters just stuck to the subject and left out their pet bigotries. But Marcellus didn’t even come close to crossing a line. He wasn’t snarky, he just pointed a fact that I had also taken notice of. And he certainly said nothing about race.

    Your “please, dont use this blog for your racist and inhuman thoughts” (!!!) admonition is way out of line and WAY over the top.

  17. Billy says

    How can we refer to an object three meters wide as an asteroid?

  18. Paul Eaton-Jones says

    You think the disagreement between people here is fractious you should check out the thread about the geo-magnetic reversal/Mayan calendar form 4th October. That IS getting weird. I’m locked in a struggle with someone who claims to come from M113, no matter how much I tell them Messiers Catalogue only went to 110 they insist it’s there, and his two ‘associates’ who bang on about alien science and ancient, ‘unknown’ science built the pyramids etc tec. Oh yes and there are a couple of hippies spouting love and peace and how we should be open to the possibility that science is actually bogus. Come on over and lend me a hand in pushing back the forces or darkness and blind ignorance. PLEASE!!

  19. Mike Johnson, You may be looking at a downward curving path from one end. The far end is where it entered the atmosphere and started burning and leaving a trail. The near end is near the camera, where it burnt out. This curve ends low, arcs up to above the center line of sight, and appear to arc back down to the entry point. Since you are looking at it endwise, the wind blown distortions appear much larger than the total length of the original arc. They appear to cross and overlap, also, but they probably don’t.

  20. Roberta Goodwin says

    If they could see them coming now then why weren’t we notified about the one that fell here just outside of Lloydminster, AB/SK Canada in November of this year 2008.

  21. Luis says

    OMG i saw this one when i was going to work. Was going to film it but was soo stunt by the way it was falling pretty cool fireball like thing.

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