Meteorite hunters find Sweden’s first ever new-fallen iron meteorite

Meteorite hunters find Sweden's first ever new-fallen iron meteorite
Andreas Forsberg (left) och Ander Zetterqvist (right) with their find. Photo: Andreas Forsberg/Anders Zetterqvist
Two Swedish meteorite hunters have discovered the iron remains of the giant fireball meteor which which lit up the night sky in November.

Andreas Forsberg and Anders Zetterqvist, two geologists from Stockholm, discovered the 14 kilo iron meteorite, which astronomers believe is the largest part of the bolide, on December 5th, but kept their find secret until last month. 

“It was a shocking, fantastic experience,” Forsberg told The Local of the moment he found the meteorite. “I've been a meteorite hunter for more than 20 years, so to see this piece lying camouflaged by the sphagnum, it was such a fantastic experience. I can't compare it to any other finds.”

Dan Holtstam, who runs the geological section at Sweden's Museum of Natural History, said that what the duo had found was, indeed, “a unique object”.

“It's been more than 60 years in Sweden since a meteorite which has been observed has been found, and this is the first definite example of a newly fallen iron meteorite ever discovered in our country,” he said in a press statement.

“It's in very good condition, and iron meteorites normally slowly rust away in nature, so we shall analyse this scientifically and if possible exhibit it in the museum in future.”

In November, the duo were among the first to arrive in village of Ådalen in Enköping, after Eric Stempels, an astronomer at Uppsala University, used a network of cameras to calculate a 16-square-kilometre fall zone.

On November 16th, Zetterqvist found the place where the meteorite had hit the ground, severing a tree root and leaving traces on a boulder. The next day, November 17th, they found the first fragments of the rock.

They alerted Sweden's Museum of Natural History on November 22nd, and the museum announced the discovery of the fragments on January 26th.

At that time of their announcement, the museum's staff were unaware that the rock-hunting duo had returned to the scene in December and found the main piece of the meteorite, some 70 metres away from where the fragments had been found.

“It bounced twice,” Forsberg explained. “The first hit was on this boulder and then it ricocheted from that boulder down to the rock outcrop with the moss and the roots, which the meteorite completely smashed. And then from there, it ricocheted again 70 metres in a backwards direction. It's fascinating.”

The meteorite has a “sculptural quality”. Photo: Andreas Forsberg/Anders Zetterqvist

He said it was “a little bit of an unfortunate situation” that the the museum had gone public with news of the fragments before they were informed about the main piece.

Stempels said that his calculations suggested that it was unlikely there was a larger piece to be found.

“Since we now know that it is an iron meteorite, it is possible to fine-tune the simulations of the meteorite fall,” he said in the statement. “It is very likely that the meteorite that has now been found is the largest existing piece of the original nine tonne meteor. Some smaller pieces are probably left in the area.”

Forsberg said that they had faced strong competition from other international meteorite hunters, and had tried to keep their discoveries secret to make it less likely that someone else would find the main piece and then take it out of Sweden.

“It's actually quite beautiful,” he said of the rock. “If you don't know anything about meteorites, you might just say 'oh, it's a big chunk of metal. But for us, you can compare it with many other iron meteorites, and this is very sculpture-like. It has some kind of aesthetic appeal to it.”

Although, both work professionally as geologists, Forsberg said that this had never dampened his passion for hunting meteorites.

“It's a thrill to dig up something that that comes from outer space, and you have a piece of very, very old rock. The old meteorites are at least 4.5 billion years old; they're the same age as the beginning of the solar system. You cannot collect any rock of that age on Earth.”


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