NASA Will Begin Searching for a 2-Ton Meteorite Off the Coast of Washington State This Week

Monday, 02 July 2018 - 12:18PM
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NASA
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Monday, 02 July 2018 - 12:18PM
NASA Will Begin Searching for a 2-Ton Meteorite Off the Coast of Washington State This Week
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Image Credit: Public Domain
Despite tens of thousands of meteorites entering Earth's atmosphere each year, the vast majority of them burn up before they ever hit the ground, while the meteorites (and falling Chinese satellites) that do manage to make it to Earth's surface probably end up in the ocean. This was the case for the meteorite that streaked through the sky over Washington State on March 7th, which NASA employee Dr. Marc Fries called "the biggest meteorite fall I've seen in the continental U.S. in the past 20 years." Now, NASA and the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) are teaming up to recover the meteorite. If they're successful, it'll be the first meteorite ever salvaged from the ocean.

Luckily for NASA and OET, they've already narrowed the landing zone to an area about one square kilometer. "They pretty much pinpointed the area where this giant meteorite broke up into the ocean and so we're working with some NASA scientists and some other scientists at universities to try to go map this pretty shallow area - it's about 150 meters [almost 500 feet] - and then, if we see any signs of debris, send an ROV down for a quick dive."

Ahead of the July 4th mission of the OET's flagship, the Nautilus, the OET will send a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) mission to explore the ocean around the predicted crash site. The goal will be to find fragments of the meteorite, some of which are estimated to be as large as bricks. Most fragments will probably contain large amounts of iron, making them easy to spot, and the scientists involved on the mission expect to find two to three fragments for every 10 square meters they search. If you're interested in watching the ROV mission, it'll last from 12 PM to 7 PM EDT, and can be watched via a livestream!

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