An Odd Rock in a Box Gets Linked to a Shooting Star That Fell 54 Years Ago

An Odd Rock in a Box Gets Linked to a Shooting Star That Fell 54 Years Ago

Tens of thousands of meteorites have been found on Earth, but a vast majority remain shrouded in mystery. These rocks come from space, of course, but pinning down their exact origins, in the solar system or even beyond, is difficult without knowing their flight paths.

But now, researchers believe they have connected a meteorite discovered in the Austrian Alps decades ago with bright flashes of light from a space rock hurtling through our planet’s atmosphere. It’s rare to link a meteorite with its parent “fireball,” and these results demonstrate the usefulness of combing old data sets, the research team suggests. Their findings were published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science in May.

In 1976, Josef Pfefferle, a forest ranger, was clearing the remnants of an avalanche near the Austrian village of Ischgl when he noticed an odd-looking rock. He brought the fist-size black stone back to his house and put it in a box.

Thirty-two years later, Mr. Pfefferle heard a news story about a meteorite discovered in Austria and wondered if his weird rock might also be from space. He decided to bring his rock to a university to be analyzed.

Mr. Pfefferle’s find did turn out to be a meteorite, and, at over two pounds, a relatively large one. Furthermore, its unweathered exterior suggested that it had fallen to Earth only shortly before Mr. Pfefferle picked it up.

“It was such a fresh meteorite,” said Maria Gritsevich, a planetary scientist at the University of Helsinki in Finland who led the recent study. “It was so well preserved.”

We are having trouble retrieving the article content.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.


Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.


Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.

Leave a Reply