Winchcombe (prov.) carbonaceous chondrite fall (>500 grams) in Winchcombe and Woodmancote, Tewkesbury Borough, Gloucestershire, UK on 28 February 2021 at ~21:54:15-24 UT

Last update: 15 April 2021

A carbonaceous chondrite (most likely a CM-chondrite) fell on the Wilcock family’s driveway in Winchcombe, according to our own research at location 51°57’04.4″N 1°58’32.5″W, Tewkesbury Borough, Gloucestershire, UK on 28 February 2021 at ~21.54:15-24 UT. The Wilcock family, school governor Rob, his wife Cathryn, a retired teacher, and their 25-year old daughter Hannah, were at home watching TV. Only Hannah heard a loud clattering sound outside which reminded her of a ‘photo frame shattering’. Initially it was thought a part of the roof could have fallen down. Hannah looked out of the window but because of the dark she could not see anything outside. In the morning, within 12 hours after the fall, Cathryn saw the dark ‘stain’ on the driveway through the lounge window. She knew it had not been there the evening before. When she and Hanna went out for a walk they saw the 7- to 10-centimetre wide small pile of the almost completely shattered meteorite outside on the driveway, about half way between the house and their parked car. Small fragments had been ejected all over the lawn and the driveway. First they thought it was a piece of charcoal or remains of a barbecue which someone had thrown or dumped onto their driveway. Rejecting this improbable idea Rob sent out a text message to his son Daniel in Leeds who answered and informed him about recent reports of a bolide above the area. Then Rob knew what had happened. After taking several photos he conscientiously and thoroughly collected the dust (~ 40-50 grams) and the fragments (about 215 grams with the biggest fragment weighing about 7 grams) of the meteorite (in total almost 300 grams) from the driveway and the lawn and put them in a clean Waitrose freezer plastic bag. Then they contacted the UK Meteor Observation Network which passed their request on to the Natural History Museum in London. Dr Richard Greenwood, Research Fellow in Planetary Sciences at the Open University, was the first to confirm the meteoritic nature of the found fragments at around 3 p.m. in the afternoon of March 3. He then contacted Dr Ashley James King, UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in London. Several hours have been spent to pick up all the available small fragments from the driveway and adjoining lawn. Additionally some reference samples of terrestrial soil near the fall location were collected. On 6 March, between 8.30 and 9.30 a.m., an intact ~150-gram specimen (apparently broken in two while being removed from the mud) was found by Mira Ihasz in its 5-centimetre deep impact pit in a sheep field of farmer Lachlan Bond’s 200-acre farm. Ihasz had just joined her partner Dr Luke Daly and a group of scientists of the University of Glasgow on their meteorite search in the calculated ~ 4 km² fall area. Including her find and at least two small specimens (5-10 grams each) found in gardens and on driveways in Woodmancote and probably elsewhere within weeks after the fall more than 500 grams in total have been found by locals and about 15 scientists from The Natural History Museum London, The University of Glasgow, The University of Manchester, The Open University, The University of Plymouth and Imperial College London. The systematic field search campaign of the scientists which started on 4 March lasted for five days.

“The importance about all of this is not about getting rich. It’s the scientists getting rich information that they can work on. It’s disappointing to read so much in the papers about the money side of it.” (Rob Wilcock)

Due to the meteorite’s scientific significance and its educational value to young people, who can be inspired by learning about meteorites, the Wilcock family has kindly donated the meteorite fragments to the national meteorite collection curated at the Natural History Museum in London. Mira Ihasz’s find, the biggest and but apparently broken meteorite mass of the Winchcombe (prov.) fall so far, has equally been donated to the Natural History Museum by the 29-year old farm owner Lachlan Bond. Both Bond, the Wilcock family and other locals who had found meteorites were informed that they were the owners of the meteorites because they had fallen on their property. This makes the donations of their meteorites to science even more remarkable. They deserve great appreciation of the scientific community and general public. About three kilometres away from the Wilcock fall site another small meteorite specimen with an estimated diametre of about 3 centimetres was found by David and Val Carrick in their garden while looking for some cat poo which they wanted to remove. The majority of the found meteorites and fragments, currently being stored in a nitrogen chamber and/or a vacuum desiccator, are being analysed and classified at the NHM London where they will be curated in the future. A Winchcombe meteorite consortium of scientists has been established in the UK to study the meteorite. An oxygen isotope analysis has been performed by Open University PhD student Ross Findlay. An X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis has been performed at the Natural History Museum in London. Analyses of organic phases within the meteorite are about to start soon. There is well-founded hope in the town of Winchcombe that a fragment of the meteorite will be exhibited permanently in the Winchcombe Museum in the future. The Wilcock driveway fall site has been covered with a plastic foil and a wooden frame to protect the dark traces of the shattered meteorite from precipitation as it might be cut out so that it can be displayed in a museum together with the meteorite in the future. Other meteorite masses could possibly still be found in the area. There are hundreds of eyewitness reports and several security cam, dashcam and skycam video recordings of the bolide.

The Wilcock fragments of the Winchcombe (prov.) meteorite

One of the found fragments (~ 20 x ~20 mm). Photo: NHM

One of the meteorite fragments (~ 15 x ~20 mm) with a patch of brownish fusion crust. Photo: Jonathan E Jackson / NHM

One of the meteorite fragments (~ 4 grams, ~ 15 x ~20 mm). Photo: NHM

One of the meteorite fragments. Photo: NHM

Fragments of the Winchcombe (prov.) meteorite at the Natural History Museum, London. Photo: NHM

A fragment (~2 cm across) reported to weigh about 5 grams. Image: Open University

Fragment of the Winchcombe (prov.) meteorite. Image: BBC

Fragment of the Winchcombe (prov.) meteorite at the Natural History Museum, London. Image: BBC

The shattered meteorite on the driveway (Up is ~SSW). Photo: Wilcock family

The shattered meteorite on the driveway. Photo: Rob Wilcock

The shattered meteorite on the driveway (Up is ~SSE). Photo: Wilcock family

The shattered meteorite on the driveway (Up is ~SSW). Photo: Wilcock family

Meteorite dust traces on the driveway (up is ~east) after the removal of the meteorite fragments. Photo: The Open University

Meteorite dust traces and reportedly a small dent on the driveway (up is ~east) after the removal of the meteorite fragments. Photo: The Open University

Shallow indentation where the meteorite hit the driveway. Image: BBC

One of the driveway fragments on 1 March 2021. Photo: Rob Wilcock

The plastic bag containing the driveway fragments collected by the Wilcock family. Photo: Wilcock family.

A look inside the plastic bag containing the fragments of the mass which fell on the driveway. Image: Open University

One of the driveway fragments at the NHM. Photo: Helena Bates

Meteorite dust and fragments at the NHM. Natasha Vasiliki Almeida

Smaller fragments at the Natural History Museum, London. Video: NHM

Winchcombe fragments curated inside desiccators at the NHM. Photo: Chris Lintott (18 March 2021)

Winchcombe fragment curated at the NHM. Photo: Chris Lintott (18 March 2021)

The sheep field mass of the Winchcombe (prov.) meteorite

The meteorite (~150 grams) was found between 8.30 and 9.30 a.m. on 6 March 2021 in its 5-centimetre deep impact pit. Apparently the initially intact specimen broke in two when removed from its impact pit.

The intact elongated sheep field mass (~ 150 grams) in situ in its 5-centimetre deep impact pit. Photo: Áine O’Brien

The intact elongated meteorite (~ 150 grams) which fell on the sheep field of a farm. Photo: Natural History Museum

The intact elongated meteorite (~ 150 grams) with contraction cracks in its fusion crust. It fell on the sheep field of a farm. Photo: Glasgow University

What looks similar to the omnipresent sheep faeces around the fall location is an intact specimen of the Winchcombe (prov.) meteorite, partly embedded in the ground of the sheep field near Winchcombe. The specimen broke in two during its removal from the impact pit. Image: Luke Daly

The intact specimen in its impact pit before one fragment was broken off. Image: Luke Daly

The larger fragment still stuck in the mud of its impact pit after the smaller fragment had been broken off. Image: Luke Daly

The larger fragment immediately after its removal from its impact pit. Image: Luke Daly

The larger fragment immediately after its removal from its impact pit. Image: Luke Daly

A larger fragment of the broken sheep field mass showing contraction cracks in its fusion crust and its broken surface at the Natural History Museum, London. Photo: Dr. Ashley King

The area between Winchcombe and Woodmancote where meteorites have been found.

360-degree video of Dr Katherine Joy and colleagues searching for Winchcombe meteorites in the fields. Video: Katherine Joy (published: 29 March 2021)

The Carrick mass

About three kilometers away from the Wilcock fall site another small meteorite specimen with an estimated diametre of about 3 centimetres was found by David and Val Carrick in their garden while looking for some cat poo which they wanted to remove. Image: BBC

The bolide

The bolide captured with Richard Fleet’s camera in Wilcot (Wiltshire). Video: Richard Fleet, UK Meteor Observation Networkcamera

Video from north of Prestbury. Video: Joshua  A.

Video: Michael Reeve, Burbage, Leicestershire

Video from Wrecclesham, Surrey. Video: Lee M.

Recorded in the southwest with AMS100 Nuneaton camera 4 from location 52.52638889°, -1.45472222°. Video: Ben Stanley

Video: ElliotTheUnread (28 February 2021)

Video from Loughborough. Camera data: Watec 902 HS with 6 mm f1.2 Cosmicar lens. Diffraction grating 500 lines/mm. (file ref. M20210228 215416 Loughborou SW). Video: Derek Robson

Cardiff (National Museum Wales)

Manchester (University of Manchester)

Honiton

The bolide recorded with the SCAMP/FRIPON cameras in Cardiff, Manchester an Honiton. Photos: SCAMP/FRIPON

The bolide recorded with the Welwyn camera in Surrey. Photo: UK Fireball Network

Atmospheric trajectory and preatmospheric orbit

The ~100-kilogram meteoroid entered the atmosphere with a speed of about 13.5 km/s.

The luminous trajectory and the initial potential 300 square kilometre strewn field as determined by UK Fireball Alliance. Later the strewn field calculation was refined resulting in a ~4-km² potential strewn field which was then searched by scientists from different universities. Image: UKMON

The initial and very roughly calculated potential 300-square kilometre strewn field as determined by UK Fireball Alliance. Later the strewn field calculation was refined resulting in a ~4-km² potential strewn field which was then searched by scientists from different universities. Image: UKMON

An early calculation of the Winchcombe (prov.) meteoroid’s preatmospheric orbit, as determined by Fripon/Vigie-Ciel. The orbit calculation has meanwhile been refined, so that it seems that the preatmospheric orbit has an aphelion in the outer asteroid belt. So the meteoroid does not come from the Jupiter Trojan (Greek camp) zone. Image: karmaka

Strewnify’s calculations

Strewnify’s trajectory and strewn field calculations can be found here.
Strewnify’s maps as Google Earth files: KMZ (Version 2) / KML (Version 2)

MEDIA

In the The One Show on BBC (15th April 2021) the Wilcocks and the Carricks were interviewed about their finds.

Winchcombe’s meteorite
an edited version of a zoom meeting on the 22nd March 2021 (edited for Radio Winchcombe)
Participants: locals from Winchcombe, the Wilcock family, Dr. Ashley King, Dr. Helena Bates, Prof. Sara Russell and Dr. Richard Greenwood

The Winchcombe meteorite was featured in a 9-minute segment of ‘The Sky at Night’ episode Mars and Meteorites, broadcasted at 9.30 p.m. on 11 April 2021 on BBC Four.

The Cotswolds-based project ‘The Television of Cruelty’ of Ian Williams has written a song about the Winchcombe meteorite fall, which was published in early April. AUDIO

“The Winchcombe Meteorite

In the sky a fireball appears
It’s been travelling 4 billion years
From Jupiter and Mars it came
Across the blackness of deep space
Towards our little Cotswold town it steers…

Chorus
It went ‘cross the sky like a blinding light
It landed with a bang and gave her a fright
The little pile of ashes on the drive
Was the Winchcombe Meteorite, oh!
The Winchcombe Meteorite

Older than the Earth, it just falls down
Amino acids and organic compounds
We were all tucked up in bed
As towards us debris sped
When a space rock fell onto our town…”

Catching a Shooting Star – Pythagoras’ Trousers podcast
Dr Martin Suttle and Dr Helena Bates interviewed
30 March 2021 (and shortened in Pythagoras’ Trousers, Radio Cardiff on 2 April 2021)

Radio Winchcombe broadcasted interviews with the Wilcock family, Ashley J. King and Adam Hart in a special Winchcombe Meteorite ‘Science Hour’ on 17 March 2021 (and in excerpts on 14-15 March).

A shooting star parked on your driveway (MP3 download/audio stream)
Interview with Sara Russell, Science in Action, BBC (11 March 2021)

Interview with Áine O’Brien of the University of Glasgow
Physics World Weekly Podcast (11 March 2021)

Interview with Rob Wilcock about how the meteorite was discovered.
BBC (9 March 2021)

A team of UK scientists, guided by meteor specialists, have recovered pieces of an extremely rare meteorite, a type which has never fallen anywhere in the UK before Natural History Museum ( Press release, 9 March 2021)

Fireball meteorite that blazed across the UK recovered from a driveway NHM (9 March 2021)

Extremely rare fireball meteorite found: First of its kind ever recovered in UK Imperial College London (9 March 2021)

Unimaginable: The first scientist to confirm and identify extremely rare meteorite that fell to Earth The Open University (9 March 2021)

UofG researchers aid in historic meteorite recovery University of Glasgow (9 March 2021)

Winchcombe meteorite is first UK find in 30 years BBC (9 March 2021)

University researcher helps to recover first meteorite found in UK for 30 years University of Plymouth (9 March 2021)

Rare carbonaceous chondrite meteorite recovered UKMON (8 March 2021)

Fireball meteor 28 FEB 2021 at 9:54 pm UKMON (1 March 2021)

The Cosmic Cast – Interview with Dr. Ashley King (24 March 2021)

Space rocks on Earth – recovering a meteorite in the UK (9 March 2021)

Natalie Starkey, Monica Grady, Richard Greenwood, Ian Franchi, Mahesh Anand and Ross Findlay discussing the meteorite recovery efforts.