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Scientists May Have Found Meteorite Fragments in the Ocean

Popular Mechanics logo Popular Mechanics 09-07-2018 Laura Yan

a person preparing food in a pan © Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc NASA scientists may have just found the first pieces of meteorite fragments in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have been hunting aboard the Nautilus vessel for pieces of a meteorite that fell in March 2018. The fall was one of the biggest meteorites falls in recent history, and the meteorite pieces had seemed especially sturdy, not prone to cracking or breaking as it passed through the atmosphere.

Scientists on the Nautilus have identified two small pieces that could be part of the space rock. Preliminary analysis suggests that the small fragments are pieces of fusion crust - “meteorite exterior that melted and flowed like glaze on pottery as it entered the atmosphere,” wrote NASA.

To hunt for meteorites, scientists had to venture to the bottom of the seafloor. According to Mashable, Fries and his team had identified the meteorite fall area to one square kilometer of the ocean that went about 100 meters deep, then went exploring on the Nautilus, an Ocean Exploration Trust vessel. The Nautilus was equipped with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) outfitted with cameras and “magnetic wands” to detect the iron often found in meteorites.

Meanwhile, backscatter instruments atop the ship scanned seafloor for any hard objects. Though the best way for scientists to detect meteorites was something far simpler: scientists studied the seafloor through the ROV’s cameras, looking for rocks that seemed out of place. "The best tools are eyes," Fries told Mashable. Scientists will confirm the Nautilus preliminary findings in further tests.

Meteorites chunks can teach scientists about the history of the Earth and analysis chemical clues of the early Solar system. "Having any new piece of that puzzle is always welcome to the scientific community," Fries told Newsweek. 

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