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This Fireworks Show Is a 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Meteorite Exploding

This Fireworks Show Is a 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Meteorite Exploding
Space

This Fireworks Show Is a 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Meteorite Exploding

Back in October 2012, a meteorite whizzed through our atmosphere and broke up in a dazzling display over California. One particular fragment, embedded in the roof of a house, was recovered by NASA for study. Now NASA is ready to reveal a bit more about the meteorite, which was likely formed in the same collision that made the moon 4.5 billion years ago.

Lisa Webber and Glenn Rivera of Novato, California, heard a thump on their roof the night of October 12 three years ago. When they later went up to investigate, they found a small piece of rock stuck in a roof tile. Indeed, it was a piece of space rock, just 2.2 ounces. In total, NASA found six fragments of the meteorite, dubbed "Novato" for where that first piece was found. The photo above is a composite that depicts the Novato fragmenting in a time series that goes from left to right.

This Fireworks Show Is a 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Meteorite Exploding

The piece of the asteroid identified by Lisa Webber's neighbor, Luis Rivera. P. Jenniskens SETI Institute/NASA AR

Before Novato was a meteorite, it was part of an asteroid. Its chemical composition seems to match the Gefion asteroid family that usually resides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. And before it was an asteroid, it was part a larger body, smashed into asteroid pieces as part of a collision 4.5 billions years ago when our moon also formed. How exactly the moon came to be still matter of debate, but that massive collision set off a domino effect of crashes in space.

When Novato finally fell to Earth, the scientists estimate it measured 14 inches across and 176 pounds. Most of the vaporized in the atmosphere, leaving such a handful of recovered fragments-the end of many billions years of journeying through space. [NASA]

Top phot Robert P. Moreno Jr., Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens

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