Residents of Berlin, Germany were left astounded when a meter-sized asteroid (2024 BX1) entered Earth’s atmosphere on January 21st, 2024 and exploded at 12:33 am UTC. The asteroid, initially a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) with an orbit indicating it was part of the Apollo group, was closely monitored by various teams and organizations.
After the explosion, a team of scientists from the Freie Universität Berlin, the Museum für Naturkunde (MfN), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Technische Universität Berlin, and the SETI Institute located the fragments of the asteroid and identified them as from a rare type of asteroid called “aubrites.” Aubrites were named after the village of Aubrés in France, where a similar meteorite fell in 1836.
Led by SETI Institute meteor astronomer Dr. Peter Jenniskens and MfN researcher Dr. Lutz Hecht, the team recovered the meteorite fragments in the fields just south of the village of Ribbeck, about 50 km (31 mi) west of Berlin. The recovery was challenging due to the unique appearance of aubrites, which resemble ordinary rocks from a distance but differ significantly up close.
The asteroid was first sighted by Hungarian astronomer Dr. Krisztián Sárneczky at the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest, and its trajectory was tracked by NASA’s Scout mission and the ESA’s Meerkat Asteroid Guard impact hazard assessment systems. Despite the explosive entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the event caused no damage and was witnessed by many, similar to the Chelyabinsk meteorite that exploded over southern Russia in 2013.
Although challenging, the recovery of the meteorite fragments was a success, with the team conducting their first analyses of one of the fragments. The composition of the fragments was found to be consistent with an achondrite meteor of the aubrite type, signifying the rarity and importance of the find. This discovery emphasizes the significance of meteorite collections in advancing research on space objects.
This event marks an important milestone in the study of meteorites and their origins, shedding light on the composition and nature of these space objects. The recovery and analysis of the fragments contribute valuable data to the international scientific community, providing new insights into the formation and composition of asteroids.