Meteorite chunk found near Novo Mesto
Ljubljana/Novo Mesto, 8 March - After a meteor exploded over Slovenia at the end of last month, a search has been under way for the meteorite fragments. The first was found this week in the village of Prečna near Novo Mesto, with its authenticity confirmed on Saturday evening. This confirms existing calculations about the target location and narrows down the search area.
The meteorite chunk - a meteor becomes a meteorite once it hits the ground - was found by Gregor Kos from Prečna on his driveway on Wednesday. But since a magnet test did not show anything, he did not report the find.
A few days later, Kos read about the search for the meteorite fragments, which was joined by several space enthusiasts and experts from other countries as well, and saw some photos, which prompted him to report his find after all.
An expert analysis of the 203-gramme rock confirmed its authenticity.
"Today is not just a women's holiday but also a holiday for Slovenian natural science, especially astronomy and geology," Miha Jezeršek from the Slovenian Museum of Natural History said at today's press conference presenting the find.
The meteorite chunk, which was called Novo Mesto, confirms that the calculations as to where the meteor which disintegrated over south Slovenia on 28 February fell were correct, said geologist Bojan Ambrožič from the Jožef Stefan Institute, who has been involved in the search expedition together with his colleagues.
He stressed this was definitely not the only fragment of the meteorite, which entered the Earth's atmosphere at the speed of 20 kilometres per second and an explosion that was detected by earthquake sensors in the south of the country and seen also in Croatia and Italy.
Ambrožič told the STA on the day of the collision that such a superbolide - a very bright meteor that can be seen even in the daylight - was a rare phenomenon. The last time it happened over Slovenia was in 2009 over the Karavanke mountains.
According to scientific calculations, the meteorite that landed in the Novo Mesto area was a metre to metre and a half big and weighed five to six tonnes.
Ambrožič believes that dozens if not hundreds of chunks are still out there, so locals have been urged to check their yards, houses and roofs. "Now that we know where to search, it will be much easier," he said.
First analyses of the rock have shown that it contains nickel, which is the main indicator that it is indeed a meteorite. Earth rocks have much lower nickel content, he explained.
The analyses of Novo Mesto continue and it can take years before such analyses are concluded, Ambrožič said.
The head of the Institute for Nature Conservation, Teo Hrvoje Oršanič, noted that meteorites are considered a natural asset and are as such protected by law.
Finds like this are important for the development of science and geology, which is why whoever finds a meteorite fragment must first hand it in for analyses. After that the rock is returned to the finder.
However, several foreign citizens have also joined the search with the intention of taking their finds with them, which is illegal, Oršanič warned.
Violators of the legal provisions on meteorites can be punished with a fine of up to EUR 10,000, while the fine for destroying a meteorite ranges from EUR 10,000 to EUR 50,000.
The news of the meteor explosion over Slovenia was also carried by Strewnify, a web site reporting on meteorites around the globe, and meteorite hunters from around the world were urged to join the search in Slovenia on its Facebook profile Strewnify Europe.