There are two ways to get your hands on a meteorite. You can send up a billion-dollar robot to retrieve asteroid samples, or you can wait for a friendly space rock land at your doorstep for free. The latter option happened on February 28th, when a rare meteorite from the early solar system landed in a driveway in Winchcombe, England.
Scientists call this kind of meteorite “carbonaceous chondrite.” It contains a lot of carbon, so it looks a lot like coal, but carbonaceous chondrite actually dates back to the beginnings of our solar system and could help us understand Earth and other planets came to be. If this is like other samples of carbonaceous chondrite, it should also contain bits of diamond, graphite, and soft clay—a sign that the rock encountered water at some point.
New footage of the #fireball tonight. Sent by Katie Parr pic.twitter.com/J4jmsM9tFj
— UK Meteor Network (UKMON) (@UKMeteorNetwork) February 28, 2021
Residents of Winchcombe, England, noticed a fireball reigning down before exploding in the sky the night of Sunday, February 28th. The next day, someone found the rock in their driveway, bagged it up, and contacted the U.K. Meteor Observation Network.
As noted by the Natural History Museum, the Winchcombe Meteorite is significantly larger than rocks collected by billion-dollar space probes. The Hayabusa2 probe returned to Earth last year with just 4.5 grams of asteroid rock, while the OSIRIS-REx probe is expected to return in 2023 with 60 grams of rock. But the Winchcombe Meteorite is 300 grams. Good things come to those who wait, I guess.
Source: Natural History Museum via Nerdist