Meteor Entered Earth’s Atmosphere at 64,000 Mph in April

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Dec. 21 2012 4:20 PM

Meteor Entered Earth’s Atmosphere at 64,000 Mph in April

Sutter's Mill, once the heart of California's famous Gold Rush, is in the news once again for its mineral finds. But this time around, its treasure is celestial.

A meteor explosion last April scattered bits of space rock all around the historic mining area. And the trove of data gleaned from this event is proving to be a gold mine for researchers.

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The meteor exile from the asteroid belt was tracked by radar reaching speeds of 64,000 mph. It then exploded with the force of a 4-kiloton atomic bomb and generated temperatures reaching 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gathering up more than 70 fragments of the shattered meteor, analysts discovered that, unlike most stony meteorites, these leftover bits of our solar system contain organic compounds like glycine, aniline, and fatty acids—the building blocks of life.

Correction, Dec. 21: This post originally suggested that the April 22 meteor weighed about 2 pounds. In fact, the meteorite fragments collected in Sutter's Mill do.