Fireball that streaked throughout sky in UK may maintain key to understanding life on earth

Tribune Web Desk
Chandigarh, March 9

A fireball that lit up the sky over the United Kingdom and Northern Europe on February 28 was an extremely rare kind of meteorite that could be a key to understanding early history of the solar system and life on this planet, CNN said on Monday.

CNN said scientists collected a fragment of the meteorite from Winchcombe town in Gloucestershire. The fragment weighing 300 grams was formed of carbonaceous chondrite, “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”, CNN said.

CNN quoted London’s Natural History Museum as saying that the fragments were in such good condition that they were “comparable to rock samples returned from space missions.”.

“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,” CNN quoted Richard Greenwood, a research fellow in planetary sciences at The Open University, as saying in a statement from the museum. He was the first scientist to identify the meteorite.

The fireball was seen streaking across the sky in the UK and Northern Europe last week.

The space rock was traveling at nearly 14 km per second before it hit the Earth’s atmosphere and landed on a driveway in Winchcombe, CNN said. Other pieces of the meteorite have been recovered in the area, CNN said.

Footage of the fireball shot by members of the public and the UK Fireball Alliance camera networks helped locate the meteorite and determine exactly where it came from in the solar system, CNN quoted the museum as saying.

“There are approximately 65,000 known meteorites on Earth,” CNN quoted the museum as saying. “Only 1,206 have been witnessed to fall, and of these, only 51 are carbonaceous chondrites.”

CNN quoted the museum as saying that the space rock, was similar to the sample recently returned to Earth from space by the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission. According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Japanese mission returned about 5.4 grams of fragments from the asteroid Ryugu.  

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