Berlin, Germany – On January 21st, 2024, an asteroid with a diameter of about one meter entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over the city of Berlin at 12:33 am UTC. The fragments of this asteroid, known as 2024 BX1, were later found by a team of scientists from various institutions and identified as a rare type of meteorite called “aubrites”.
The team of scientists who recovered the fragments included researchers from the Freie Universität Berlin, the Museum für Naturkunde (MfN), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Technische Universität Berlin, and the SETI Institute. Led by Dr. Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and Dr. Lutz Hecht of MfN, the team located the meteor fragments in the fields just south of the village of Ribbeck, approximately 50 km west of Berlin.
The recovery of the fragments presented a significant challenge due to the unique appearance of aubrites. Unlike other types of meteors, aubrites have a mostly translucent glass crust and resemble gray granite. This made them difficult to detect in the field, as explained by Christopher Hamann, a researcher from the Museum für Naturkunde.
The asteroid was first spotted by Hungarian astronomer Dr. Krisztián Sárneczky at the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest. The task of tracking the asteroid and predicting its impact on Earth’s atmosphere was performed by NASA’s Scout mission and the ESA’s Meerkat Asteroid Guard impact hazard assessment systems, with frequent trajectory updates provided by Davide Farnocchia of JPL/Caltech.
The explosion caused by the asteroid was witnessed by many and filmed, reminiscent of the Chelyabinsk meteorite that exploded over southern Russia in 2013. This was not Dr. Jenniskens’ first recovery of a small asteroid that had fallen to Earth, and he mentioned that this particular asteroid was a challenge to track down.
Following the recovery of the fragments, Dr. Ansgar Greshake and his colleagues at the Museum für Naturkunde conducted their first analyses of one of the meteor fragments. Their results revealed that the fragments are consistent with an achondrite meteor of the aubrite type, a finding that underscores the significance of meteorite collections for research.
The fragments were submitted to the International Nomenclature Commission of the Meteoritical Society for verification, highlighting the rarity of this type of meteorite. This discovery adds to the limited material from observed falls of this type in meteorite collections worldwide.