Astronomers at the University of Western Ontario have recovered a golf-ball sized fragment of a meteorite that hit an SUV in southern Ontario.
The exterior of the 46-gram fragment of an "ordinary chondrite" meteorite is completely fusion-crusted, meaning it melted in the Earth's atmosphere.
The researchers said chondrite is a particularly important type of meteorite because it provides information about material that formed in the early solar system. They estimate the rock to be about 4.6 billion years old.
The researchers had appealed to the public for help in locating the meteorite that lit up the sky west of Lake Ontario in September, and had released images, video and maps of its possible location.
Yvonne Garchinski of Grimsby, Ont., saw media coverage of the meteor's fall on Sept. 25, described as a fireball about 100 times brighter than the full moon, and made a connection between it and the smashed windshield of her sport utility vehicle.
Her son Tony also found unusual rocks on the car's hood the morning after the meteor strike, but thought they were the result of vandalism and filed a police report.
The university's network of cameras in southern Ontario captured the descent of the meteor and allowed researchers to project where it might have landed. The meteor first appeared on camera above Guelph, Ont., and was tracked to an area between Hamilton and St. Catharines.
Astronomers at UWO, in London, estimate the meteor was travelling across the sky at nearly 75,000 km/h.
Orbit to be reconstructed
Phil McCausland, a postdoctoral fellow at Western's Centre for Planetary Science & Exploration, said the visual records, radar and sound wave data of the meteor event will allow scientists to reconstruct its orbit before it hit the Earth.
"We can also figure out where it came from and how it got here, which is rare. In all of history, only about a dozen meteorite falls have that kind of record," he said in a release.
Peter Brown, a professor at Western, said the find is the equivalent of sending a probe into space and having it return with a sample.
"We've worked out the orbit, where it came from, so it becomes a material within context. It's like a geologist who can pick up a rock which may be interesting, but if you know where it came from, that context, it means so much more. Most meteorites, we don't have the context. This one we do," said Brown.
The meteorite is on loan from Garchinski: meteorites found in Canada belong to the owner of the land on which they fall. McCausland and Brown agree it's likely there are more meteorites to be found in the Grimsby area.