UK scientists and meteor experts have recovered pieces of a rare meteorite on March 3, 2021, just days after it entered Earth’s atmosphere and streaked across the sky, as announced by the Imperial College in London today.
The fragments were retrieved in such good condition and so quickly after the meteorite’s fall that they are comparable to rock samples returned from space missions, both in quality and quantity.
The discovery stemmed from the widespread sighting – on February 28 – of a fireball, a very bright meteor or shooting star, that lit up the sky as seen from across the UK and northern Europe.
Now astronomers and meteorite experts have located the space rock that created that display. They found pieces of the rock in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.
It’s likely to become known as the Winchcombe meteorite.
Rare type of carbonaceous chondrite
The meteorite is of a type called a carbonaceous chondrite.
There are approximately 65,000 known meteorites on Earth. Only 1,206 have been witnessed to fall and of these, only 51 are carbonaceous chondrites. WOW!
Some of the most primitive known meteorites have come from this class; they’re made of material that has traveled in our solar system for billions of years.
These sorts of meteorites have also been known to contain organic material and amino acids, that is, the ingredients for life.
Those are some of the reasons scientists are so excited about finding this meteorite so soon after it fell. They said they retrieved the meteorite in such a good condition, so quickly after its fall, that it’s comparable to asteroid samples returned from space missions, both in quality and quantity.
They’re also excited because this extremely rare type of meteorite has never been recovered in the UK before. It’s the first recovered meteorite in the UK in the past 30 years.
Specialized cameras – part of the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFAll) – were able to recreate the February 28 fireball’s flight path, allowing scientists to determine exactly where in the solar system the space rock came from, and also to predict where it fell.
The group ultimately recovered about 10.5 ounces (300 grams) of the meteorite on March 3, 2021. Part of it landed on a driveway in the town of Winchcombe.
The original space rock is estimated to have been traveling at nearly 9 miles (14 km) per second before hitting the Earth’s atmosphere, experts said.
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