'Fireball' meteorite found on UK driveway could reveal secrets of life on Earth

Scientists will analyse fragments to cast light on history of solar system

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A meteorite that fell from the fireball that lit up the sky over the UK and northern Europe last month has been found and identified as a type that has never fallen in Britain before.

Fragments of the fireball have been located in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, and are now in the care of museum scientists.

The meteorite, likely to be known as the Winchcombe meteorite, is an extremely rare type called a carbonaceous chondrite.

These have been known to contain organics and amino acids – ingredients for life.

The meteorite will be the target of an unprecedented research effort, providing answers to questions about the early history of the solar system and life on Earth.

Footage of the fireball from the public and UK Fireball Alliance camera networks helped locate the meteorite and determine where it came from.

Almost 300g of the rare meteorite survived its fiery passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and landed on a drive.

Other pieces of it have now been recovered in the local area after it was spotted on February 28.

The original space rock was travelling at nearly 14 kilometres per second before hitting the Earth’s atmosphere.

Experts say the meteorite was retrieved in such a good condition and so quickly after its fall that it is comparable to the samples returned from space missions, both in quality and quantity.

Dr Richard Greenwood, research fellow in planetary sciences at the Open University, was the first scientist to identify and advise on the meteorite.

"I was in shock when I saw it and immediately knew it was a rare meteorite and a totally unique event," he told PA.

“It’s emotional being the first one to confirm to the people standing in front of you that the thud they heard on their driveway overnight is in fact the real thing.”

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