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'Astonishingly rare' fireball meteorite found in UK driveway

The pristine meteorite left a scientist "speechless with excitement."

It's the first time in 30 years that a meteorite has been recovered in the UK. 
The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Scientists have sent daring missions out into the wilds of space to grab some asteroid bits. (Here's looking at you, Hayabusa2 and Osiris-Rex.) After an eye-popping fireball meteor blasted across the UK on Feb. 28, scientists have recovered some of the valuable fragments it scattered on the ground.

"For the first time in 30 years, a meteorite has been recovered in the UK after landing in the driveway of a house in Gloucestershire," the Natural History Museum in London said in a statement Tuesday. The museum called the carbonaceous chondrite meteorite "astonishingly rare" and said it will give scientists a glimpse into the early solar system dating back to 4.6 billion years ago.

Since the dark, fragile rock landed in the town of Winchcombe, it's already becoming known as the "Winchcombe meteorite." According to the museum, carbonaceous chondrite meteorites "are made of a mixture of minerals and organic compounds, including the building blocks of life itself: amino acids."

One of the larger meteorite pieces was found in a driveway in the town of Winchcombe in the UK.

UK Meteor Network

The rare meteorite left Natural History Museum researcher Sara Russell "speechless with excitement." Nearly 10.6 ounces (300 grams) of the space rock have been recovered on the ground so far, giving scientists a tremendous amount of material to study. Russell said the fragments look like material collected by the Hayabusa2 and Osiris-Rex space missions.

The UK Meteor Observation Network, a citizen science group that tracks meteor sightings, captured the fireball event on camera and helped to narrow down the potential debris field and the likely origin of the meteor, which traces back to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

"This is history in the making," said the UK Meteor Observation Network in a statement. "The recovery of a meteorite fragment with data from meteor camera networks is a first for the UK."

The quick recovery and excellent preservation of the meteorite means scientists have a pristine sample to study that will connect with research on asteroid material returned from space. Said Russell, "It is absolutely a dream come true."

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