The British Natural History Museum said it has recovered fragments of the first meteorite collected in the United Kingdom in 30 years and one of the rarest ever discovered.
On the night of February 28, a fireball was seen streaking across the sky over southwestern Britain, dazzling onlookers and exciting scientists. No fragments from a meteorite — what a meteor is called once it lands on Earth — had been recovered in the nation since 1991.
Museum researchers asked people to look in an area north of the town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire County. They received calls from the town of Winchcombe. Scientists went door to door asking people if they had seen anything. Several had, including a family that said a piece landed in their driveway.
Researchers were even more excited when they realized the fragment was an extremely rare type known as a carbonaceous chondrite, which has never been found in Britain.
Researcher Sara Russell explained that with about 65,000 known meteorites in the world, only 51 of them have been a carbonaceous chondrite, a mineral substance that is believed to date back 4.6 billion years to about the time the solar system was forming.
The coal-black mineral contains all the original ingredients that created asteroids, comets, and ultimately, planets like the Earth.
Russell said she had the opportunity to work with material gathered on an asteroid from a recent Japanese space mission.
“This material looks exactly like the material they are collecting,” she said.