Extraterrestrial water found in British meteorite for the first time: Experts say the Winckcombe space rock that crashed into the Cotswolds Pass last year may help explain how Earth got its oceans
- Extraterrestrial water was first discovered in a meteorite found in the United Kingdom
- The Winchcombe meteorite may hold clues to the origin of Earth’s oceans
- The space rock crashed into a walkway in Gloucestershire in February
- The researchers revealed that 12 percent of the sample consisted of water
Extraterrestrial water has been found for the first time in a meteorite that fell in the UK.
The Winchcombe meteorite, which crashed into a gorge in Gloucestershire in February last year, is also believed to hold clues about the source of Earth’s vast oceans.
Ashley King, a researcher in the Planetary Materials Collection at the Natural History Museum, said 12 percent of the sample consisted of water.
He told the British Science Festival: “The composition of that water is very similar to that of the water in Earth’s oceans.
“It’s really good evidence that asteroids and objects like Winchcombe have made a very important contribution to Earth’s oceans.”
Extraterrestrial water has been found for the first time in a meteorite that fell in the UK. The Winckcombe meteorite crashed into a gorge in Gloucestershire last year
The family thought that someone had thrown lumps of coal on their driveway
A family with meteorite land outside their home in the Cotswolds said they thought someone had dumped a barbecue in their car when they saw the rocks.
Hannah Wilcock, 25, and her parents Rob and Katherine were stunned to learn that the “lumps of coal” they heard while driving on the night of February 28 were actually shrapnel from The meteorite is 4.6 billion years old.
The meteor, weighing about 300 grams, smashed into the sky and crashed into their driveway in Winckcombe, Gloucestershire – putting the family at the center of a major scientific discovery.
The meteorite is some of the most valuable space rocks ever to hit the UK, and metal detectorists have been cleaning fields in Gloucestershire over the past month.
However, Catherine had other, more reasonable theories, believing that the dark spots on their driveway were parts of a barbecue thrown out after hot weather.
Hannah said she was inside her parents’ house when she heard a bang.
She told the BBC: ‘When I heard her fall, I stood and looked out the window to see what was there.
“But because it was dark, I couldn’t see anything. Only the next morning when we got out did we see it on the drive – kind of like a stain.
“And in all honesty, my original idea was – was someone driving around the Cotswolds throwing lumps of coal into people’s gardens?”
Dr King also confirmed that Winckcombe was the first time a meteorite containing extraterrestrial water – albeit trapped in minerals – had fallen in the UK.
He added that because of how quickly the 1-pound (0.5 kg) meteorite was recovered – in about 12 hours – it was not contaminated by water and material on Earth.
“We always try to match the composition of water meteorites and other extraterrestrial materials with the composition of water on Earth,” said Dr. King.
“For most meteorites, our challenge is that they are only contaminated, whereas with Winchcombe we really know they weren’t really polluted, so it’s good evidence.”
Dr. King continued, “One of the big questions we have in planetary science is where did the water on Earth come from? And one of the obvious places is either through comets that have loads and amounts of ice in them, or through asteroids.”
“There is always a debate – were comets the main source, were asteroids the main source?”
Explaining that the data from the missions to comets indicate that they are not a good match for water on Earth, he added: “The composition of the water at Winckcombe is much better, which means that the asteroids – the carbonaceous asteroids – were most likely the main source of water for the inner solar system, to Earth .
Dr King continued: “We have a hint that some asteroids match up well with Earth.
“But now we have a really new meteorite that we know hasn’t been modified, and it confirms the same story.”
Speaking at De Montfort University, which hosts the festival, Dr. King said analysis showed the meteorite came from an asteroid somewhere near Jupiter.
Formed about 4.6 billion years ago, its journey back to Earth took about 300,000 years.
There are approximately 65,000 meteorites known on Earth.
This is the first known carbonaceous chondrite found in the UK, and the first meteorite discovered in the UK 30 years ago.
Astronomers say the meteorite crashed into Earth’s orbit at about 31,000 miles per hour – 40 times the speed of sound – before burning up and shattering into smaller pieces in a dramatic fashion.
But unlike most falling stars, this meteor was large enough that some pieces escaped into the atmosphere when it blasted across Gloucestershire at 21:54 on February 28, 2021.
Very little survived the dramatic descent, leaving a few pounds of material dripping to the ground at Winckcombe.
All pieces of meteorite material found in the city were subsequently transferred to the Natural History Museum.
Sarah Russell, a meteorite researcher at the Natural History Museum, described the meteorite discovery as a “lifetime event.”
The meteorite was the first known carbonaceous chondrite found in the United Kingdom
It was removed shortly after its landing, as scientists were keen to study the rock in more detail
Explanation: The difference between an asteroid, a meteorite and other space rocks
that asteroid A large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most of them are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.
a comet It is a rock covered with ice, methane, and other compounds. Their orbits take them far from the solar system.
a meteor It is what astronomers call the flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns.
This same wreck is known as a meteorites. Most of them are so small that they flow into the atmosphere.
If any of this meteorite reaches Earth, it is called a meteor.
Meteorites, meteorites, and meteorites usually originate from asteroids and comets.
For example, if the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, a lot of debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.