Experts say a rare chunk of space rock, believed to contain the most primitive material in the solar system, is in such good shape that it's comparable to samples returned from space missions. But this one didn't come to Earth under careful conditions. Instead, it fell from the sky over Gloucestershire, England, on Feb. 28, around the same time another meteorite was observed near Aiguillon, France. The UK Fireball Alliance had mapped out a likely meteorite field after a fireball triggered a sonic boom, per the Guardian. The first meteorite recovered in the UK in 30 years—a 10-ounce chunk of carbonaceous chondrite, never before seen in Britain—was found to have tumbled onto a driveway in Winchcombe, which was almost dead center of the highlighted area, according to scientists at the Natural History Museum in London. Some fragments were also retrieved in the vicinity.
Just over 1,200 of the 65,000 known meteorites on Earth were observed falling, and of those, just 51 are carbonaceous chondrites, per CNN. Such samples have been known to contain organic material and amino acids, or "the ingredients for life." But they're also soft, meaning they don't always survive descent at more than 40 miles per second. This sample arrived at an estimated 8 miles per second. "I was in shock when I saw it and immediately knew it was a rare meteorite and a totally unique event," Richard Greenwood of the Open University, who was first to identify the rock, says in a release. The museum compared the sample to a much smaller one retrieved from the asteroid Ryugu. The meteor, which came from an asteroid that formed around the same time as the planets, is thought to have "spent most of its orbit between Mars and Jupiter," the Guardian reports. (Read more meteorites stories.)