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Rare pristine meteorite analysed by Curtin scientists

Rare pristine meteorite analysed by Curtin scientists

Scientists from Curtin University in Western Australia have revealed the secrets of a rare meteorite that was discovered in the United Kingdom last year.

The meteor was tracked by the Global Fireball Observatory, a program led by Curtin University researchers, as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere on 28 February 2021.

Within hours of impacting the Earth’s surface, the remnants of the meteorite were located on the driveway of a local family in the town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.

The initial meteorite fragments were collected by the Natural History Museum, with more pieces being collected in the area over the next month. A total of 600 grams of asteroid rock were located and catalogued.


The team behind the Global Fireball Observatory at Curtin University is the same team responsible for managing Australia’s Desert Fireball Network (DFN). Ellie Sansom, project manager of the DFN, recently appeared on the Space Connect podcast to explain the detailed workings of the project.

As part of their observations, the Global Fireball Observatory was able to track the Winchcombe meteorite with a high level of precision. This precise tracking as the asteroid came through the atmosphere also allowed the team to track the origin of the meteorite.

The Global Fireball Observatory consists of a network of cameras constantly scanning the skies for meteorites and involves 17 different partner institutions across the world.

Researchers at Curtin have since spent the last 18 months studying the samples and have now released a paper detailing their findings.


The long period of research paid off, as the team discovered that the Winchcombe meteorite was an extremely rare form of meteorite called carbonaceous chondrite which contains amino acids.

Amino acids are often described as “the building blocks of life”, being carbon-based molecules. The meteorites carrying them were formed billions of years ago when the solar system was still in its infancy.

These meteorites are particularly important, as they can contain water and may have carried it to Earth. The Winchcombe meteorite was found to contain as much as 11 per cent water by weight, which is a significant amount in the context of these meteorites.

The speed at which the meteorite was retrieved was imperative to the research the team conducted, as usually meteorites of this type are quickly contaminated by exposure to Earth’s atmosphere.

Dr Hadrien Devillepoix of Curtin University commented on the benefits of being able to triangulate the location of the meteor so quickly to the team’s research efforts.

“The spectacular meteorite fall in February last year triggered a massive collaborative effort across the UK and around the world, including researchers from Curtin University. The quick recovery of the meteorite was crucial to the range of analyses that were subsequently able to be done on it.”


Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.

Send Liam an email at: [email protected]

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