First Fragment Of Shattered Asteroid Recovered In Botswana

A calm lake created mirror-like reflections of Venus and some local fireworks last night (July 5). Bob King

Before we look at the main news I wanted to share a serendipitous photos of Venus. While taking a picture of the planet’s reflection in a lake near Duluth, Minn. someone on the opposite shot off a few rounds of fireworks that squeezed their way into the 10-second time exposure. Boom, boom!

Did I hear explosions? Remember asteroid 2018 LA, the one found by the Catalina Sky Survey on June 2 only 8½ hours before it exploded in the atmosphere over Botswana, Africa? All indications pointed to a strong possibility of fragments from the 7-15 foot (2.1-4.6 meters) space boulder surviving the plunge and landing as meteorites. It took a few weeks but on June 23 a team of space rocks hunters from the U.S., Botswana, South Africa and Finland found the first meteorite from the fall in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve.


This is the first meteorite found after the breakup of the Earth-approaching asteroid 2018 LA over Botswana early last month. Looks like a small seed got wedged into a crack on the stone? Peter Jenniskens

Peter Jenniskens, astronomer and senior research scientist with NASA’s SETI Institute, traveled to Botswana where he teamed up with Oliver Moses of the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute to gather security surveillance videos to refine good areas to hunt. Jenniskens played a key role in the previous recovery of meteorites from another asteroid discovered only hours before it crashed to Earth over Sudan in the year 2008 — 2008 TC3.

Meteor 2018 LA fireball recorded by a security camera on June 2, 2018. Video captured by Barend Swanepoel of Ottosdal

Because winds at the time scattered pieces over a wide area teeming with snakes, lions and elephants, finding anything proved an enormous challenge. But after five days of walking across the sandy reserve, a geologist on one of the teams happened spotted a fragment of 2018 LA, a little, black rock covered in fresh fusion crust (melted rock) from the heat of the fall. From appearances it might weigh around 20 grams or a little less than an ounce. Don’t let its small size betray its importance: this is only the second time pieces from a previously-discovered asteroid have been recovered.

A happy team points to the first meteorite recovery from the 2018 LA fall. Peter Jenniskens (center right) wears a big smile. Peter Jenniskens

The teams are continuing the search and hope to find more fragments. Since meteorites are protected under Botswana law, the stone will end up at the Botswana National Museum after it’s studied by a research consortium including scientists from Botswana, South Africa, Finland, and the U.S.

OK, one more photo from last night.

Three planets splayed across the southern sky last night about midnight. Bob King