Scientists are positive that two small fragments of molten rock recovered off the Washington coast are parts of the meteorite that crashed on March 7.
The fragments now await a more thorough analysis to confirm that they are really part of the meteorite. If they are, the exploration will set a milestone as the first time in history that a team redeemed fragments of a known meteor from the ocean floor.
The fragments were salvaged after an eight-hour exploration conducted with the collaboration of the Ocean Exploration Trust, the nonprofit ship EV Nautilus, and scientists from NASA, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the University of Washington.
The two fragments were redeemed from a small pit on the sea floor according to Mark Fries, the cosmic dust curator from NASA. The rocks measure approximately 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter. Fries explained that these fragments may have come from the fusion crust of the meteorite formed when the meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere.
Fries said that there could approximately be 2 tons of the meteorite that survived the crash. Based on this estimate, he said it is the largest meteorite fall he has seen in the 21 years since modern weather radars were used. He added that the meteor was extraordinary because it separated into several large fragments. This meant that the meteor is comprised of harder materials compared to other similar cosmic bodies that he encountered in the past.
"You can explain that anomaly if the meteor is of a different composition from the normal, most common types of meteors and now we have samples in hand to test that hypothesis," Fries said, speaking from a press briefing held from the EV Nautilus.
He calculated the mass of the meteorite to be about 9.7 pounds, which was approximately 5 inches in diameter. Fries said its fall site can contain about two to three meteorites for every 10 square meters of the seafloor.
Crew members of the expedition team shared the most challenging part of the work was searching the seafloor at about 300 feet in depth. The area was squashy and muddy. The location was so soft that any large meteorite fragment would have submerged deep into the mud. The water underneath was also tossing sand as thick as 12 feet into the ocean surface. The latter reduced the visibility for the expedition team.
The expedition was originally planned to run from July 1 to 4.
The meteorite fell about 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Grays Harbor Country. The event was witnessed by people along the coasts of Washington and Oregon. They reported about hearing loud thuds. It was initially rumored that the incident involved aliens crashing on Earth.