A 4.5 billion-year-old fragment of debris that came to Earth from the far reaches of our solar system is on display at the Natural History Museum in London.
Named the Winchcombe meteorite after the small English market town where it crashed in February, scientists say this type of meteorite is incredibly rare.
Footage of its arrival on 28 February was filmed by Richard Fleet of the British Meteor Watch Network prior to landing in Hannah Wilcock’s Winchcombe driveway.
“It was the peak of self-isolation, so that evening, oddly enough, I didn’t do anything,” Wilcock told reporters. “And I heard something crash outside. I had a window open, as I often do in the evenings, and lo and behold, if it were not a meteorite.
A piece of space junk known as carbonaceous chondrite, some of which contains organic matter and amino acids: essential ingredients for life.
Helena Bates, temporary curator of the meteorites at the Natural History Museum, said: “They are made up of things like hydrous minerals that suggest it was exposed to water at some point in its history.
“Wherever we find water on Earth, we find life. So, water in our solar system is something that interests us very, very much. This meteorite may answer some questions about where the water came from.”
London’s Natural History Museum reopens its doors on Monday after being closed for about five months due to coronavirus restrictions.
This is the longest closure in the history of the museum since World War II, and on Monday the public will see the Winchcombe meteorite for the first time.