Researchers and local park volunteers in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve on July 8 announced the discovery of a fragment from an asteroid that hit the Earth June 2 only eight hours after it was discovered.
“The biggest uncertainty we faced was to determine where exactly the meteorites fell,” says Peter Jenniskens a subject expert of the SETI Institute in California, who traveled to Botswana to assist in the search. He teamed up with Oliver Moses of the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute (ORI), to gather security surveillance videos in Rakops and Maun to get better constraints on the position and altitude of the fireball’s explosion. Team member Tim Cooper of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa calibrated videos to the south.
After disruption, the asteroid fragments scattered over a wide area, blown by the wind while falling down. Calculations of the landing area were done independently by the NASA-sponsored group headed by Jenniskens, as well as by Esko Lyytinen and Jarmo Moilanen of the Finnish Fireball Network. These calculations were defining the fall area well enough to warrant the deployment of a search expedition.
The first meteorite was found after five days of walking and scouring a landscape of sand, thick tall grass, shrubs and thorn bushes by a team of geoscientists from the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), the Botswana Geoscience Institute (BGI) and from ORI, guided by Jenniskens. The Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks granted access and deployed their park rangers to provide protection and participate in the search. BUIST student Lesedi Seitshiro was first to spot the stone.
This is only the second time in history that a small asteroid observed in space was recovered following its impact on Earth.
I have amateur astronomer friends who attempted to do this exact thing, here in Tucson. We actually went out one day hunting for a meteorite they had tracked, but were unsuccessful in finding anything. To have had success we would have likely required more search time and a better constraint on the asteroid’s landing zone.
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