Driveway where Winchcombe meteorite crashed will go on display

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A piece of the driveway where an ‘extremely rare’ meteorite worth £100,000 crashed will go on display at the Natural History Museum along with the space rock.

The meteorite fell to Earth in a fireball seen from across the UK, tracked by doorbell cameras, eventually landing in the Cotswold town of Winchcombe back in February.

This was the first time a meteorite had touched down and been recovered in the UK in over 30 years, with parts spread across Gloucestershire, including on a driveway.

That piece was donated to the Natural History Museum, which says it is an unusual CM2 carbonaceous chondrite type of space rock with organic chemicals.

Hannah Wilcock, 25, and her parents Rob and Cathryn were astounded to learn that the ‘lumps of coal’ on their drive in the Cotswolds were a 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite.

It left behind a residue, and that patch of tarmac where it landed has been removed from the driveway and will also go on show at the Natural History Museum in London.

Hannah Wilcock, 25, and her parents Rob and Cathryn were astounded to learn that the 'lumps of coal' on their drive in Cotswolds were a 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite

Hannah Wilcock, 25, and her parents Rob and Cathryn were astounded to learn that the ‘lumps of coal’ on their drive in Cotswolds were a 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite

The meteorite fell to Earth in a fireball seen from across the UK, tracked by doorbell cameras, eventually landing in the Cotswold town of Winchcombe back in February

The meteorite fell to Earth in a fireball seen from across the UK, tracked by doorbell cameras, eventually landing in the Cotswold town of Winchcombe back in February

Family thought someone had thrown lumps of coal on to their driveway 

A family who had a meteorite land outside their Cotswolds home said they thought someone had emptied a barbeque onto their drive when they saw the rocks.

Hannah Wilcock, 25, and her parents Rob and Cathryn were astounded to learn that the ‘lumps of coal’ they had heard thud onto their drive on the night of February 28 were in fact fragments of a 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite.

Weighing around 300g in total the meteorite pierced through the sky and crashed onto their driveway in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire – putting the family at the centre of a major scientific discovery.

The meteorite is some of the most valuable space rock ever to fall on the UK and has had metal detectorists scouring fields in Gloucestershire for the past month.

Yet Cathryn had other more plausible theories, believing the darkened spots on their driveway were parts of a BBQ that had been dumped after the hot weather.

Hannah said she had been inside her parents’ home when she heard a thud.

She told the BBC: ‘When I heard it drop, I stood up and looked out the window to see what was there. 

‘But because it was dark, I couldn’t see anything. It was only the next morning when we went out that we saw it on the drive – a bit like a kind of splatter.

‘And in all honesty, my original thought was – has someone been driving around the Cotswolds lobbing lumps of coal into people’s gardens?’

The meteorite was removed soon after it landed, as scientists were eager to study it in more detail, however, the ‘mini-crater’ in the drive also held a fascination.

That section has been protected for the last six months by a wooden covering board, and a car was placed over the top when the weather was bad earlier in the year. 

The Natural History Museum already has fragments of the meteorite on display but believes the tarmac will enhance the attraction. 

A local construction company was used to remove the section of driveway by cutting around the crater and encasing the tarmac with board and steel and using jacks to push a 10 square foot slice on to a pallet.

Property owner, Cathryn Wilcock, told the BBC: ‘It’s like one of my cakes, hoping it’s going to come out of the tin in one piece,’ when they were half-way through.

Rob Wilcock added: ‘I’m pleased in a way that it’s going but I’m also a bit nostalgic because we’ve got used to it being there. 

‘It’s something that’s changed our lives and brought us into contact with a lot of really interesting people. And, of course, it really has put Winchcombe on the map. It’s one of the most significant things that has ever happened in this town.’

While there is now a large hole in the driveway, the family don’t plan to just replace the tarmac, and instead have commissioned a plaque to go in the spot. 

The rock is a ‘Mighei-like’ meteorite, linked to a type found in Ukraine in the late 19th century, which are among the oldest and most primitive available to study.

Natural History Museum researcher, Dr Ashley King, said they formed right at the start of the Solar System and are ‘like time capsules’.  

‘They’re telling us about the building blocks of our Solar System,’ Dr King told the Science In Action programme on the BBC World Service.

‘Obviously, we weren’t there 4.6 billion years ago, and these meteorites are a way for us to actually see what sort of materials were there, and how those materials started to come together to make the planets.’ 

The meteorite was removed soon after it landed, as scientists were eager to study it in more detail, however, the the 'mini-crater' in the drive also held a fascination

The meteorite was removed soon after it landed, as scientists were eager to study it in more detail, however, the the ‘mini-crater’ in the drive also held a fascination

That piece was donated the Natural History Museum, who say it is an unusual CM2 carbonaceous chondrite type of space rock with organic chemicals

That piece was donated the Natural History Museum, who say it is an unusual CM2 carbonaceous chondrite type of space rock with organic chemicals

Never previously found in the UK, these often contain organic compounds – providing clues to the building blocks of life in space and what planets are made from. 

Astronomers say the meteorite plunged into Earth’s orbit at around 31,000 mph — 40 times the speed of sound — before burning up and shattering into smaller pieces in dramatic fashion.

But unlike most shooting stars, this meteorite was big enough that some chunks survived entry into the atmosphere when it streaked across Gloucestershire at 21:54 on February 28. 

While there is now a large hole in the driveway, the family don't plan to just replace the tarmac, and instead have commissioned a plaque to go in the spot

While there is now a large hole in the driveway, the family don’t plan to just replace the tarmac, and instead have commissioned a plaque to go in the spot

Rob Wilcock added: "I'm pleased in a way that it's going but I'm also a bit nostalgic because we've got used to it being there'

Rob Wilcock added: “I’m pleased in a way that it’s going but I’m also a bit nostalgic because we’ve got used to it being there’

Very little survived from the dramatic crash landing, leaving a few pounds of material falling to Earth in Winchcombe. 

All of the pieces of meteorite material found in the town have now been moved to the Natural History Museum, and researchers say they could give insight into how life on Earth got started. 

They contain evidence of water in the atomic signatures of the rock, which may be similar to water found on Earth. Further testing is required to confirm this.

Sara Russell, a meteorite researcher at the Natural History Museum, described the meteorite’s discovery as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime event’. 

Explained: The difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

An asteroid is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.

A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small they are vapourised in the atmosphere.

If any of this meteoroid makes it to Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.

For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.

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