Making an impact


Hunting for Fragments of the Gebel Kamil meteorite SW Egypt. The 45m diameter Kamil crater was originally located by Vincenzo de Michele using Google Earth satellite imagery. Approximately 1600 kg of iron meteorite fragments were located during joint Italian-Egyptian expeditions in 2009 and 2010 led by Dr Luigi Folco. Dr Folco, who did his Ph.D. at the Open University, is pictured with the largest individual fragment so far recovered, which has a mass of 83 kg (small image centre). (Images: Museo Nationale Dell’ Antartide)

While on the subject of iron meteorites, it is interesting to note the wide interest there has been in the recently discovered Gebel Kamil meteorite. Official details about the find went live on the Meteoritical Bulletin Database in early July of this year. Dr Jeff Grossman of the United States Geological Survey, who runs the database, reported that on the first day after the release of the official write-up, Gebel Kamil broke all previous records for the most hits on one meteorite by distinct users on a single day. On 13thJuly 2010 the entry was read by 238 different people. This greatly exceeds the previous record of 149 hits in one day for details of Meridiani Planum, the meteorite discovered on Mars by the NASA Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity. Interestingly Meridiani Planum is also an iron meteorite.

NASA Opportunity rover analysing the Meridiani Planum iron meteorite discovered on Mars in 2005. (Image: NASA)

The story behind the discovery of the 45 metre wide Kamil crater in SW Egypt has been given extensive coverage in the popular science press (e.g. Sky and Telescope). In addition, samples of the Gebel Kamil meteorite are now being widely traded amongst dealers and collectors (e.g. The Meteorite Market).

From a scientific perspective the Kamil crater is of interest because it shows the development of a pristine rayed structure, more normally associated with impact craters on airless bodies such as the Moon, Mercury or the satellites of the outer planets. In a recent Science paper it was suggested that this feature is evidence that iron meteorites can penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere without significant fragmentation.

Kuiper crater on Mercury showing a well-developed rayed structure. (Image: NASA/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

Kamil crater seen from space (Image: ESA/DigitalGlobe-QuickBird Processing: Telespazio). You can check out the Kamil crater yourself by searching Google Earth or Maps and typing the coordinates 22°1’5″N 26°5’15″E

The results of the scientific work undertaken at the Kamil crater were presented recently at a seminar in Rome as part of the European Planetary Science Congress.

But the most exciting implication of this work is the real possibility that anyone, with the aid of mapping software such as Google Earth, now has the chance to make a very significant contribution to meteorite research. So it’s over to you!

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