Scientists Found Traces of ‘Sonic Boom’ Meteorites in the Ocean

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After a meteorite fell on 7 March in the ocean, just off the coast of Washington state, researchers finally got their hands on tiny fragments of the meteorite.

Marc Fries, the cosmic dust curator for NASA, stated in an interview that:

“The fall was widely seen around local areas and widely heard around local areas — it came with some loud sonic booms.”

He estimated that the meteorites weighted almost 4,400 lbs. (2,000 kilograms), one of which might weight 9.7 lbs. (4.4 kg):

“This is the largest meteorite fall I’ve seen in 20-plus years of radar data.”

That meant one thing: the meteorite was very strong. So, taking into consideration this information and the fact that the meteorite landed on the seafloor, scientists went hunting for it.

According to Fries, this hunt would be the “first intentional search for meteorites from the ocean.” That’s because until now, scientists only recovered meteorites from the ocean by accident, from drilling samples in the seafloor.

Scientists at the NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, NASA and the University of Washington teamed up with the scientific research nonprofit organization Ocean Exploration Trust to find some of the meteorites.

Nicole Raineault, was the leader of the expedition and is also the vice president of exploration and science operations at the Ocean Exploration Trust. Raineault said that they “didn’t really see any smoking-gun signature of a meteorite, any change to the texture of the seafloor.”

On July 1, they searched for meteorite pieces on an area of 0.4 square mile (1 square kilometer) with a ship using multibeam sonar. The next day, they deployed two submarines controlled with remotes. They would investigate the seafloor and use magnets or suction pumps to get meteorite pieces. Fries believed that “meteorites sank into the seafloor.”

Melted Pieces of Rock

Six hours in the lab with the sediment taken from the seafloor revealed two small fragments of the meteorite. Fries said that “the meteorite fragments are small, melted pieces of rock,” each measuring 2 – 3 millimeters. They came “from the outside of a meteorite. When a meteor enters the atmosphere, it accrues what’s called a fusion crust — “you have flash-melting of the rock, which coats the rock like pottery glaze.”

He and his colleagues will analyze the fragments to see their composition: “If they are meteoric in origin, we can tell what kind of meteorite they came from.”

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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