Scientists Track Meteor to Earth for First Time

Discovery is like first clue to asteroid 'Rosetta Stone'
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2009 5:56 PM CDT
Scientists Track Meteor to Earth for First Time
A black chunk of rock is seen in the Sudan desert. It's the first time astronomers have tracked an asteroid from space down on the ground as a meteorite.   (AP Photo/NASA)

Scientists have accomplished a first by tracking an asteroid from space into Earth's atmosphere and down to a Sudanese desert, Wired reports. A team of searchers found about 280 small chunks of the meteor, all of a type never before collected. "This is like the first step toward a Rosetta Stone for classifying asteroids," says the co-author of a study in Nature.

"It's the first time we've been able to track something through the air and watch it fly apart and then find pieces of it," said another co-author. Given the pristine condition of the carbon-heavy rocks, the discovery also could answer questions about the early solar system. "The chance of contamination is pretty low," said a scientist. "Whatever you see in the stone is what came from outer space, with no contribution from Earth." (More asteroid stories.)

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