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Abstract

In the absence of a firm link between individual meteorites and their asteroidal parent bodies, asteroids are typically characterized only by their light reflection properties, and grouped accordingly into classes1,2,3. On 6 October 2008, a small asteroid was discovered with a flat reflectance spectrum in the 554–995 nm wavelength range, and designated 2008 TC3 (refs 4–6). It subsequently hit the Earth. Because it exploded at 37 km altitude, no macroscopic fragments were expected to survive. Here we report that a dedicated search along the approach trajectory recovered 47 meteorites, fragments of a single body named Almahata Sitta, with a total mass of 3.95 kg. Analysis of one of these meteorites shows it to be an achondrite, a polymict ureilite, anomalous in its class: ultra-fine-grained and porous, with large carbonaceous grains. The combined asteroid and meteorite reflectance spectra identify the asteroid as F class3, now firmly linked to dark carbon-rich anomalous ureilites, a material so fragile it was not previously represented in meteorite collections.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the University of Khartoum for support of the field campaigns, and students and staff of the Physics Department of the Faculty of Sciences for their efforts to recover the meteorites. P.J. is supported by the NASA Planetary Astronomy program. D.R. acknowledges the support of NASA's Cosmochemistry program (grant NNX07AI48G). A. Alunni, J. Travis-Garcia and L. Hofland of NASA Ames Research Center, and J. Herrin of NASA Johnson Space Flight Center, provided laboratory assistance. The work conducted at JPL/Caltech was under contract with NASA. The William Hershel Telescope is operated on the island of La Palma by the Isaac Newton Group in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias.

Author Contributions P.J., M.H.S., D.N., S.E. and A.M.K. led the field search for meteorites. M.E.Z., L.L. and G.A.R. performed the petrographic analysis. J.M.F. performed the trace element bulk chemistry analysis. D.R. performed the oxygen isotope analysis. A.S. performed the Raman analysis. S.R.C. calculated the orbit and ground track. A.F., S.D., H.H.H. and G.R. observed and analysed the astronomical spectrum. P.G.B. analysed the infrasound data. P.G.B., W.N.E. and P.J. performed dark-flight calculations. S.P.W., E.T., M.B.B. and R.E.S. facilitated and analysed the US Government satellite observations. R.D. and M.K. observed the asteroid light curve, which was analysed by P.P., J.B. and Z.C. analysed the Meteosat 8 observations. P.J. and J.V. investigated the link with possible other parent bodies. J.K. provided wind model data. J.A. and P.J. analysed train wind drift. J.L.B. and P.J. measured reflection spectra of the meteorite. R.L.M. and P.J. obtained optical imaging of the meteorite. S.A.S., S.N.M., M.N. and P.J. performed the mid-infrared analysis.

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Affiliations

  1. SETI Institute, Carl Sagan Center, 515 North Whisman Road, Mountain View, California 94043, USA

    • P. Jenniskens
    • , J. Albers
    • , J. L. Bishop
    •  & R. L. Mancinelli
  2. Physics Department, University of Khartoum, PO Box 321, Khartoum 11115, Sudan

    • M. H. Shaddad
    • , D. Numan
    •  & A. M. Kudoda
  3. Physics Department, Juba University, Juba, Sudan

    • S. Elsir
  4. NASA Johnson Space Center, Mail Code KT, Houston, Texas 77058, USA

    • M. E. Zolensky
    • , L. Le
    •  & G. A. Robinson
  5. Jacobs Technologies Engineering Science Contact Group (ESCG), Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 77058, USA

    • L. Le
    •  & G. A. Robinson
  6. Department of Chemistry, Fordham University, 441 East Fordham Road, Bronx, New York 10458, USA

    • J. M. Friedrich
  7. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, 79th Street at Central Park West, New York, New York 10024, USA

    • J. M. Friedrich
  8. Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 5251 Broad Branch Road, NW, Washington DC 20015-1305, USA

    • D. Rumble
    •  & A. Steele
  9. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109, USA

    • S. R. Chesley
  10. School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen's University Belfast, University Road, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK

    • A. Fitzsimmons
    • , S. Duddy
    •  & H. H. Hsieh
  11. Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG, UK

    • G. Ramsay
  12. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 3K7, Canada

    • P. G. Brown
    •  & W. N. Edwards
  13. ET Space Systems, 5990 Worth Way, Camarillo, California 93012, USA

    • E. Tagliaferri
  14. Sandia National Laboratories, PO Box 5800, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185, USA

    • M. B. Boslough
    •  & R. E. Spalding
  15. Clay Center Observatory, Dexter and Southfield Schools, 20 Newton Street, Brookline, Massachusetts 02445, USA

    • R. Dantowitz
    •  & M. Kozubal
  16. Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, Fričova 298, 25165 Ondřejov Observatory, Czech Republic

    • P. Pravec
    •  & J. Borovicka
  17. Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, Na Sabatce 17, 143 06 Praha 4, Czech Republic

    • Z. Charvat
  18. Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Éphémérides, 77 avenue Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 Paris, France

    • J. Vaubaillon
  19. Dutch Meteor Society, Akker 141, 3732 XD De Bilt, The Netherlands

    • J. Kuiper
  20. NASA Ames Research Center, Mail Stop 245-6, Moffett Field, California 94035, USA

    • S. A. Sandford
    • , S. N. Milam
    • , M. Nuevo
    •  & S. P. Worden

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to P. Jenniskens.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07920

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