Meteorite hunters have recovered a fragment of a small asteroid that crashed down to Earth on June 2nd after burning up in the atmosphere above Botswana.
The space rock exploded a few hours after researchers first detected it, breaking into several pieces upon contact with Earth’s atmosphere.
After that initial impact, the asteroid then exploded and turned into what is known as a “fireball” meteor. That means it created a bright flash of light as it sped across the sky.
As soon as skywatchers spotted the falling rock, teams of meteor experts set out to find any pieces that may have survived the harsh trip down to the ground.
Five days after the hunt began, a team made up of geoscientists from local universities and research institutes uncovered the first piece. Soon after, a group of international scientists joined the search and recovered a second piece in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Astronomers then further narrowed down potential locations by collecting and analyzing footage from surveillance cameras.
“After disruption, the asteroid fragments were blown by the wind while falling down, scattering over a wide area,” said officials with the University of Helsinki, according to Space.com. Studying the footage allowed them to “get better constraints on the position and altitude of the fireball’s explosion.”
Astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey first detected the asteroid 8 hours before it hit Earth. At the time they determined the rock measured roughly 6 feet across.
While that size was much too small to send an alert, the team did use impact prediction models to see where it may have landed and help in the search.
Some of the pieces have been recovered, and astronomers will continue to look for more as the days go on. Finding the fragments is important because they could lead to new research and help scientists get a better idea of what the rock was like.
“We see it as our mandate and duty to respond quickly to events like this one and to recover the material, both for research purposes and as part of the heritage of Botswana,” said Alexander Proyer, leader of the expedition, according to Popular Mechanics. “This meteorite is a priceless piece of rock that the people of Botswana will want to enjoy seeing on display for generations to come.”