Stunning Meteor "Fireball" Deposits A 4.5-Billion-Year-Old Rock In Costa Rica

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Costa Ricans witnessed a beautiful fireball on April 23, 2019 (Credit: Marietta Davis/Twitter video screen capture)

Meteor showers, which happen when our planet traverses through debris streams left behind by passing comets, are a fairly common occurrence. While the tiny rocks usually burn up when they collide with our atmosphere, resulting in what we call "shooting stars," every so often one manages to survive the impact and land on Earth. That is precisely what appears to have happened in Costa Rica recently.

On April 23, 2019, at 9:09 pm local time, residents of San Carlos in Costa Rica's Alajuela Province heard a loud noise, which was followed by a massive "fireball" streaking across the skies. Photos and videos of the stunning bright flashes soon went viral, with hundreds of residents reporting on the incident.

A piece of the meteor from the meteor fell into a house in Aguas Zarcas, Costa Rica (Credit: CEN@UCR)

As it turned out, the exploding meteor did not totally disintegrate as expected. One small piece managed to survive the journey through our atmosphere and land in a house in the Aguas Zarcas district of San Carlos. The homeowner discovered the still-warm meteorite, which had created a hole in her roof, when she went to investigate the origin of a loud rumble from the back of her house. Scientists from the Central American School of Geology at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), who examined the space debris using special equipment, confirmed that the 2.36-pound (1,071-gram) rock was “a chondritic stone meteorite, composed mainly of silicon, iron, and magnesium."

Though more analysis needs to be done, initial tests seem to indicate the rock, dubbed "Meteorito de Aguas Zarcas,” is 4.5 billion years old. Experts suspect it may be the debris of Comet Thatcher, the source of the Lyrid meteor showers, which peaked on April 22 and April 23 this year. However, the geologists still need to perform chemical tests to confirm that theory.

CEN geologists believe the rock is 4,560 million years old. (Credit: CEN @ UCR)

Regardless of where it came from, the UCR team is thrilled at this rare opportunity to closely investigate a meteorite. The geologists say, “The Aguas Zarcas event is an extraordinary find and of great scientific interest at a national and international level that transcends any possible economic value that may be assigned to the fragments." They assert that the discovery is important “for the study of the age and composition of the Solar System, as well as to understand the genesis of particles of organic origin that later allowed the development and evolution of life on the planet.”

Resources: mailonline.com,sputniknews.com,ticotimes.net

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Homework AssignmentMonday, May 20, 2019 at 10:37 am

Mr. SerranoArticle Comprehension:
1) When do meteor showers occur?
2) What causes "shooting stars?"
3) What did residents of Costa Rica see on April 23, 2019?
4) How did a piece of the meteor end up in Aguas Zarcas?
5) How big is the meteorite?
6) What is the meteorite composed of?
7) How old is the meteorite estimated to be?
8) What is the meteorite called?
9) Why do researchers believe it is debris from Comet Thatcher?
10) Why is the UCR team thrilled at finding the meteorite?

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