A meteorite that exploded over El Dorado County last spring was one of the fastest, rarest meteorites to hit earth.
That's according to a 70-member international scientific team, which includes nine researchers from the University of California, Davis.
The meteorite, that fell April 22, was the rarest type known to hit earth - a carbonaceous chrondite, composed of cosmic dust and materials that helped form the planets, according to a University of California, Davis press release.
The meteorite, according to scientists, formed about 4.5 billion years ago. It broke off its parent body, perhaps an asteroid of a Jupiter-family comet, about 50,000 years ago.
It then began a wild route to the Gold Country from the neighborhood of Jupiter toward the sun, passing by Mercury and Venus before heading toward earth.
The meteorite announced its arrival on that Sunday morning. Residents throughout the Sierra Nevada reported hearing explosive sounds as it burned in the atmosphere.
Pieces of the meteorite came to earth around Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma. In 1848, gold was discovered there in the American River's south fork at Sutter's Mill, touching off the Gold Rush.
Scientists, for that reason, have dubbed it the Sutter's Mill Meteorite. They estimate it must have been about the size of a minivan, and weighed around 100,000 pounds, before it broke up.
The minivan-sized meteorite entered the atmosphere at 64,000 mph. About two pounds were recovered by scientists and private collectors.
Pieces of the meteorite were found in parks, parking lots and on driveways.
"If this were a much bigger object, it could have been a disaster," according to study co-author and UC Davis geology professor Qing-zhu Yin.
Yin's lab has equipment to measure the age and composition of meteorites. He also led a 35-member subgroup of researchers to study different facets of the meteorite, including its mineralogy and magnetic properties.
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Read more articles by Bill Lindelof
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