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The first new asteroid identified this year didn't last long. Asteroid 2014 AA was spotted by a telescope early New Year's morning, and fizzled up over the Atlantic Ocean a day later.

2014 AA is only the second incoming object astronomers have tracked before it hit the Earth – and they almost missed it. The first such object, 2008 TC3, was discovered on 6 October 2008 about 20 hours before it became a fireball over Sudan.

Word of 2008 TC3's approach spread quickly, allowing observers to track it and predict when and where it would hit the atmosphere to within about a second and a kilometre, says Bill Gray, an amateur astronomer in Maine who calculates asteroid orbits. Thanks to that precision, a team from the University of Khartoum, Sudan, was able to recover fragments that reached the ground.

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