Fragment of impacting asteroid recovered in Botswana

July 6, 2018, University of Helsinki
Botswana meteorite. Credit: Peter Jenniskens

On Saturday, June 23, 2018, a team of experts from Botswana, South Africa, Finland and the United States of America recovered a fresh meteorite in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). The meteorite is one of the fragments of asteroid 2018 LA which collided with Earth on June 2, 2018 and turned into a meteor fireball that detonated over Botswana a few seconds after entering the atmosphere. The incident was witnessed by a number of spectators in Botswana and neighbouring countries and was captured on numerous security cameras.

Asteroid 2018 LA was detected in space eight hours before hitting Earth. It was detected by the Catalina Sky Survey, operated by the University of Arizona and sponsored by NASA as part of its Planetary Defence mission. This is the third time in history that an asteroid inbound to hit Earth was detected early and only the second time that fragments were recovered. After disruption, the asteroid fragments were blown by the wind while falling down, scattering over a wide area. Calculations of the landing area were done independently by a US-based group headed by Peter Jenniskens, a subject expert of the NASA-sponsored SETI Institute in California, as well as Esko Lyytinen and Jarmo Moilanen of the Finnish Fireball Network (FFN).

The first meteorite was found after five days of walking and scouring around by a team of geoscientists from Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), Botswana Geoscience Institute (BGI) and University of Botswana's Okavango Research Institute (ORI). The Department of Wildlife and National Parks granted access and deployed park rangers for protection and participation in the search. The importance of the find is two-fold: It has enormous scientific value and it allows to better calibrate the so-called "Earth Defense" against impacting asteroids.

Jenniskens, who traveled to Botswana to assist in the search, teamed up with Oliver Moses (from ORI), to gather security surveillance videos in Rakops and Maun, to get better constraints on the position and altitude of the fireball's explosion. Professor Alexander Proyer, from BIUST, led the joint expedition while Mohutsiwa Gabadirwe, BGI senior curator, coordinated access to the protected fall area in the game reserve. Professor Roger Gibson, Head of School at the School of Geosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, also assisted in locating the fall area. The meteorite was eventually spotted by BIUST geologist Lesedi Seitshiro. The search for more fragments of the meteorite continues. Dr. Fulvio Franchi of BIUST, is leading the follow-up search team joined by Tomas Kohout of the FFN and the University of Helsinki.

Search team pointing to the meteorite found. Credit: Peter Jenniskens

Explore further: Tiny asteroid discovered Saturday disintegrates over Africa

Related Stories

Tiny asteroid discovered Saturday disintegrates over Africa

June 4, 2018

A boulder-sized asteroid designated 2018 LA was discovered Saturday morning, June 2, and was determined to be on a collision course with Earth, with impact just hours away. Because it was very faint, the asteroid was estimated ...

100 full moons: Blazing fireball lights up Arctic sky

November 18, 2017

A blazing fireball lit up the dark skies of Arctic Finland for five seconds, giving off what scientists said was "the glow of 100 full moons" and igniting hurried attempts to find the reported meteorite.

Recommended for you

Japan space robots start asteroid survey

September 22, 2018

A pair of robot rovers have landed on an asteroid and begun a survey, Japan's space agency said Saturday, as it conducts a mission aiming to shed light on the origins of the solar system.

First to red planet will become Martians: Canada astronaut

September 22, 2018

Astronauts traveling through space on the long trip to Mars will not have the usual backup from mission control on Earth and will need to think of themselves as Martians to survive, Canada's most famous spaceman half-jokingly ...

Three NASA missions return first-light data

September 21, 2018

NASA's continued quest to explore our solar system and beyond received a boost of new information this week with three key missions proving not only that they are up and running, but that their science potential is exceptional. ...

Dwarf companion to EPIC 206011496 detected by astronomers

September 20, 2018

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), European astronomers have uncovered the presence of an M-dwarf around the star EPIC 206011496. The newly found object is more than 60 percent less massive than our sun and is bounded ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Jul 06, 2018
Nice results from cosmopolitan peoples communicating their share of information to support a cooperative global effort.

Cause we are all together trapped at the bottom of a very deep gravity well.

"Ask not for whom the asteroid falls upon.
It falls upon us all!"

Do we wish to pay that toll?
Do we wish to hear the tolling dirge for all life on this world?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.