Publication of the week: Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology
8 December 2014
S.G. Coulson, M.K. Wallis & N.C. Wickramasinghe, “On the dynamics of volatile meteorites”, Monthly Newsletter of the Royal Astronomical Society 445(4) (December 21, 2014), 3669-3673; doi: 10.1093/mnras/stu1993.
It has been generally believed in the meteoritic community that fragile assemblages of rocky material escaping from comets when they approach the Earth cannot survive transit through the Earth’s atmosphere. This is contradicted by the discovery of meteorites of the type that fell in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka in December 2012 and also in 2013. Despite all the direct evidence for this fall many meteoritists have discounted the stones as being meteorites because prevailing theories had maintained that they should not exist. The new paper shows that the parent bodies of fragile meteorites of the Polonnaruwa type survive entry and do not break up at high altitudes. This work is important because the Polonnaruwa meteorite has been shown to contain evidence of fossilised microorganisms.