On February 28, citizens in Northern Europe and the United Kingdom witnessed a meteorite falling to Earth in a ball of fire. The event is particularly exciting to some experts who believe that the specific, very rare materials of the rock might lead to answering some questions about the universe.
After the meteorite sped through the sky at almost 14 kilometers-per-second above several countries, some of its pieces were found on a driveway in the Cotswolds. Scientists have gathered around 300 grams (10.6 ounces) of the rare rock from Winchcombe, a small Gloucestershire town and experts have confirmed that the meteorite was made of the material, carbonaceous chondrite. According to CNN, “The substance is some of the most primitive and pristine material in the solar system and has been known to contain organic material and amino acids — the ingredients for life.”
The Natural History Museum in London confirmed that the particles were collected quickly enough and in good enough condition that they have the same value as if they were brought back to earth from space.
CNN reports, “The space rock, the museum said, was similar to the sample recently returned to Earth from space by the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission, which returned about 5.4 grams of fragments from the asteroid Ryugu, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.”
Richard Greenwood is a research fellow in planetary sciences at The Open University, and was the first scientist to identify the rock. In a statement from the museum, he said, “I was in shock when I saw it and immediately knew it was a rare meteorite and a totally unique event. It’s emotional being the first one to confirm to the people standing in front of you that the thud they heard on their driveway overnight is in fact the real thing.”
The museum said that there are around 65,000 meteorites on Earth of which humans know, but people have only seen 1,206 fall to Earth, and of those, only 51 were composed of the carbonaceous chondrite material.
The meteorite fell to Earth at 9:54p.m. GMT on February 28 and was witnessed by thousands of people in the U.K. and Northern Europe. Spectators even recorded footage of the event on cameras and home security devices. The museum stated that the civilian recordings, as well as video from the UK Fireball Alliance, helped scientists discover where the meteorite particles might be located in the town in order to collect them for research. The recordings also provided scientists with information on where the meteorite came from in outer space.
The museum said that even more pieces of the meteorite might be found in the form of black rocks, piles of small stones, or dust, in the area. While the meteorite landed on a driveway in Winchcombe, additional fragments have been gathered from the surrounding location.
Ashley King, a UK research and innovation future leaders fellow in the department of earth sciences at the Museum, said, “Nearly all meteorites come to us from asteroids, the leftover building blocks of the solar system that can tell us how planets like the Earth formed. The opportunity to be one of the first people to see and study a meteorite that was recovered almost immediately after falling is a dream come true!”