Scientists have found pieces of a meteorite that fell near Berlin just after midnight on Jan. 21. It is a rare find, from an asteroid that was identified just before it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Only a handful of such events in the recent past have allowed astronomers to trace an incoming rock’s origin in the solar system.
Early analysis of the fragments has shown something equally rare. The meteorite is an aubrite, a class with unknown origins that some scientists argue may be pieces of the planet Mercury. They are so rare that they made up just 80 of the 70,000 or so meteorites that were collected on Earth before last month’s event.
“It’s really exciting,” said Sara Russell, a meteorite expert at the Natural History Museum in London. “There are very, very few aubrites.”
The asteroid that became the meteorite (or rather fragments of meteorite) was initially spotted by Krisztián Sárneczky, a Hungarian astronomer, three hours before it hit Earth’s atmosphere. A network of cameras tracked the incoming rock, 2024 BX1, as it fell near Ribbeck, a village outside Berlin. Estimates suggest the rock was tiny, less than three feet in size. It still made a brilliant flash that cameras in many parts of Europe picked up.
Numerous cameras caught the asteroid’s entry over Germany. Video by Michael Aye, via Storyful.CreditCredit…Michael Aye, via Storyful
As soon as he heard the news of the meteorite fall, Peter Jenniskens, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in California, bought a plane ticket.
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