Claxton Meteorite

StarDate: December 9, 2009

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Don Richardson had just stepped outside his house when he heard a familiar sound: a high-pitched whistle like an incoming mortar round. Luckily for the Vietnam vet, the source wasn't enemy fire. Instead, it was a projectile from beyond Earth -- a chunk of space rock that slammed into a mailbox, then buried almost a foot into the ground.

The meteorite was named for its impact site -- near the town of Claxton, Georgia. It hit 25 years ago this week.

Before the impact, one observer several miles away saw a bright yellow fireball streaking across the sky. Another heard a sonic boom. And several of Richardson's neighbors heard the meteorite hit with a loud bang.

Countless pieces of space debris hit Earth every day. Most of them are no bigger than BBs, so they burn up before they hit the surface. A few are big enough to hit the surface, but most of those are never found. It's quite rare for someone to actually see a meteorite hit the ground.

The Claxton meteorite is classified as a chondrite. It's a chunk of rock that contains droplets of olivine and other minerals that melted and solidified in space billions of years ago. Such rocks haven't changed much from the time they formed. So that means the Claxton meteorite is a leftover from the birth of the solar system -- a four-and-a-half-billion-year-old projectile that slammed into a Georgia mailbox 25 years ago.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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