After searching the seafloor off the Washington coast for eight long hours, scientists on Monday recovered two small fragments of molten rock that are suspected to be remnants of a bright meteorite that fell about 15 miles (25 kilometers) off the coast of Grays Harbor County, Washington. People living along the coasts of Washington and Oregon witnessed the spectacular metro fall as they reported of hearing loud thuds.
The search operation was the result of collaboration between the Ocean Exploration Trust, NASA, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the University of Washington. The scientists deployed two remote-controlled submarines, the Hercules and the Argus, to search the seafloor and pick up the fragments using either magnets or a suction pump. This latest endeavor is possibly the first intentional search for meteorites from the ocean.
Mark Fries, NASA’s cosmic dust curator, said that the two fragments, which were redeemed from a small pit on the sea floor, measure approximately 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter.
According to Fries, these fragments may have come from the fusion crust of the meteorite formed when the meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere. He estimated that the fall might have yielded about 4,400 lbs. (2,000 kilograms) of meteorites. Fries also calculated the largest meteorite might weigh about 9.7 lbs. (4.4 kg) and have a diameter of about 5 inches (12 centimeters).
“This is the largest meteorite fall I’ve seen in 20-plus years of radar data,” the cosmic dust curator said.
The fragments’ fusion crust that appears smooth on their surface suggests they have faced the incredible friction of Earth’s atmosphere before eventually falling into the ocean.
Fries and his colleagues will next examine these fragments more closely in the lab to determine what they are made of and if they are indeed from space.
“If they are meteoric in origin, we can tell what kind of meteorite they came from,” Fries said.