On March 7, 2018, a meteor the size of a golf cart streaked across the skies of Washington state and crashed into the ocean. Researchers have since been looking for it in the Pacific Ocean – and they say they’ve found something.
The search began on Sunday, July 1, when the ship called the Nautilus headed off the coast of Washington with a team of scientists on board. Using sonar, they attempted to find pieces of this meteorite that had fallen to the seafloor about 100 meters (330 feet) deep.
It’s estimated that as much as 2 tons of the meteorite may have survived the impact, noted the Seattle Times, with the rock thought to have landed about 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast.
Then on Monday, July 2, two remote submarines called Hercules and Argus were sent on a seven-hour trip to the seafloor, in the area where the meteorite was thought to have hit the ocean. They collected some samples using a suction hose, magnetic plate, and scoop that looked like the jackpot.
In an update posted on their website, the Nautilus team said that NASA Cosmic Dust Curator Dr Marc Fries conducted a visual analysis of the samples. And his findings suggest they “include two small fragments of fusion crust – meteorite exterior that melted and flowed like glaze on pottery as it entered the atmosphere.”
What’s not known at the moment, however, is whether these pieces are from the March meteorite, or another one. So they’re planning to conduct more tests over the coming weeks to see if that’s the case, and study the samples further to see if there are any more pieces.
The reason for doing this is to work out what sort of meteorites might hit out planet in the future. No meteorite has ever been retrieved from the ocean before, with this rock being unusual in that it didn’t break apart as it traveled through the atmosphere.
“This one is special,” Dr Fries told Mashable. “This one is tougher than your typical meteor.”
Had this meteorite exploded over nearby Seattle, it likely would have smashed windows in a manner similar to the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor in Russia. Thankfully it didn’t, and it’s provided scientists with a rather amazing opportunity to snag some pieces of it.