Scientists have accomplished a first by tracking an asteroid from space into Earth's atmosphere and down to a Sudanese desert, Wired reports. A team of searchers found about 280 small chunks of the meteor, all of a type never before collected. "This is like the first step toward a Rosetta Stone for classifying asteroids," says the co-author of a study in Nature.
"It's the first time we've been able to track something through the air and watch it fly apart and then find pieces of it," said another co-author. Given the pristine condition of the carbon-heavy rocks, the discovery also could answer questions about the early solar system. "The chance of contamination is pretty low," said a scientist. "Whatever you see in the stone is what came from outer space, with no contribution from Earth."