An English family living in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, has found a super-rare type of meteorite which streaked down into their garden, and should give scientists a unique insight into the creation of the solar system.
The Smithsonian Magazine reported that a fireball streaked across the night sky and exploded on Feb 28.
In the morning, the family found the black rock and contacted the UK Meteor Observation Network.
The Winchcombe meteorite weighs 300g. Scientists say it is a carbonaceous chondrite, which is from the earliest time in the solar system.
It is the rarest type, consisting of up to 5% carbon in a variety of forms, including organic matter. As well as “exotic” diamond and graphite grains from before the birth of the sun.
The Winchcombe meteorite is significantly larger than rocks collected by billion-dollar space probes. The Japanese Hayabusa2 probe returned to Earth last year with just 4.5g of asteroid rock.
“This is really exciting,” Sara Russel, a researcher at the London Natural History Museum, said in a press release. “There are about 65,000 known meteorites in the entire world, and of those only 51 of them are carbonaceous chondrites that have been seen to fall like this one.”
The meteorite likely contains soft, clay minerals, which would suggest the presence of frozen water ice from the past. The meteorite may even have amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of life.
“Meteorites like this are relics from the early solar system, which means they can tell us what the planets are made of,” Russel added in the press release.
“But we also think that meteorites like this may have brought water to Earth, providing the planet with its oceans.”