On July 4th, a 233 gram fragment of a meteorite was found in the municipality of Kindberg (Styria). The extraterrestrial comer now known as the “Kindberg meteorite” is only the eighth such find in Austria in the last 250 years and the first since 1977. This is a “sensation for Austria”, said the curator of the meteorite collection of the Natural History Museum ( HHM), Ludovic Ferrière, on the APA.
A stroke of luck
From a scientific point of view, the discovery of the loud first analysis at the NHM, actually ordinary chondrites, is in any case a “stroke of luck”. Finding the piece of meteorite itself is one of these. On November 19 of the previous year at 04.46 a.m., a ball of fire could be seen over Austria. At that time, Ferrière quickly received numerous reports of observations of the rare phenomenon. There have also been reports of loud explosion and rumble noises and sightings of a tail of dust. The nightly incidents were also registered by a number of specialized meteor cameras of the “AllSky7” fireball network, the FRIPON (Fireball Recovery and InterPlanetary Observation Network) meteor observation network and the European fireball network.
270 kilograms and 24 seconds visible
In evaluations of the network, led by Pavel Spurný from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, it was possible to quickly determine what must have happened when it passed through the earth’s atmosphere. The scientists estimate the original weight of the celestial body at around 270 kilograms. The chunk was visible as a luminous phenomenon for 24 seconds as it moved from a height of 100 kilometers to 25 kilometers of field. At the estimated speed of 14 kilometers per second, however, most of the mass burned up. The rest would have to have settled in mostly small fragments in a mountain area around 50 kilometers long and up to three kilometers wide between the municipal areas of Lunz am See (Lower Austria) and the Styrian Kindberg.
Look for leftovers
Ferrière immediately assembled a small team that set out to search for remnants in the said area. The researcher said that it was about citizen science par excellence – an approach that has a long tradition in his field of research. However, they did not find anything at the time. The population should then look out for rocks that are typically black in color. There was also a small race against time, because the longer ago an impact occurred, the more likely it was to be overgrown by vegetation or the appearance of the usually unusual looking boulders with a black outer shell changed.
The cost fund
“Several dozen people have contacted us at the museum since the fireball was seen, but none of the stones found was a meteorite,” said the scientist. Finally, eight months after autumn, a person who died with Ferrière the first time he came into contact with the decisive find reports. Immediately Ferrière and his colleague Julia Walter-Roszjár drove to Kindberg to examine the rock and continue to search. The broken rock actually shows the typical black enamel crust and a gray interior with shiny metal grains as well as some thin melt veins, according to the scientists.
However, no further pieces have been found so far. “But there should be more there. Because on the video of the crash you can see that there was fragmentation,” said Ferrière. The current piece was located exactly in the area that the analyzes suggested. It is questionable that further fragments can soon be found in the mountainous region – also because many people from numerous countries have already participated in searches.
A real exception
For Austria, the find is “only the number and therefore a real exception,” emphasized Ferrière. Although tens of thousands of meteorites have been found around the world, the case here is unusual in an international comparison. The orbit of the original object around the earth could be calculated on the basis of the numerous observations. So far, this has only been the case for around 40 such incidents out of around 60,000. After the first remains have been found, further data can also be provided, the scientist was pleased to say.
In many cases you only have the material to analyze without knowing exactly where it was found, says the geologist. The “Kindberg meteorite” is a representative of the Apollo asteroids. He comes from the same group as the one from which the Chelyabinsk meteorite fell in February 2013 came. This was around 20 meters in diameter when it crashed over Russia. According to Ferrière, this group can be “traced back” on the basis of samples. It’s a little bit like getting a free return space mission from an asteroid. Such missions promise bringing a few grams of samples with you, but with a financial outlay in the amount of many millions of euros.
Hope in young people
Since the event was registered by so many people in Austria and has now uncovered a new “Austro” meteorite, the curator hopes that the area will also attract more attention from young people in the future. So that more of these spectacular celestial phenomena will soon be registered, scientists are continuing to advocate the expansion of a network of sky observation cameras. “Tomorrow I’ll get five more cameras like this,” said Ferrière.
The meteorite was submitted to the Meteoritical Society for approval. After the positive decision it WILL be officially listed as the “Kindberg meteorite”. If suspicious material should still appear in the find area, the researchers bit for reports about the Museum website.