“Fireball” Soars Above China’s Zhejiang, Meteorite Parts Later Found

Between 5:40 pm and 6:00 pm on December 15, Beijing time, many locals in Jinhua, China’s Zhejiang Province posted online that they had witnessed a mysterious bright “fireball” flashing through the sky, and that meteorite parts were suspected to have fallen to the ground. Chinese web users posted on social media that the object was “very fast, very bright.”

According to media reports, a local villager in Chengtou Village, Tanxi Town, Pujiang County, said, “The meteorite did fall on our village. It smashed on the cement road at the door of a farmer’s house, and smashed a pit which seems to be six or seven centimeters deep. Fortunately, no one was hurt.” According to the villager, the piece of meteorite they saw is about the size of a goose egg, and is flat, black and dense. Another villager said that when the incident happened, she heard a loud noise, like a big car tire exploding. The windows were even shaking. Later, she heard that some villagers said their windows and several street lamps were broken.

(Source: Weibo)

On the evening of December 15, Chinese media outlet Chendgu.cn contacted the police near their village, and was told that the local police had gone to the scene and picked up a small object suspected to be a meteorite fragment. The incident did not cause mountain fires or casualties.

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The suspected meteorites have been handed over to local government departments for investigation and verification. According to the local media center of Pujiang County, after measurement, the suspected meteorite is 8 cm long and weighs 3 kg and around 200 grams. The media center staff told said that it needs to be analyzed and identified by astronomical experts.

Zhu Guangliang, the vice president of the Zhejiang Provincial Astronomical Society, told The Paper that “The ‘fireball’ people saw was called a ‘bolide.’ When meteoroids pass through the atmosphere and rub and burn with air, they can be quite bright like in this incident. It is the active period of the Geminid meteor shower, but the conventional Geminid meteoroid is small, so I think that it should be an accidental meteor entering Earth orbit. In addition, according to the current reports of scattered debris, the meteoroid could disintegrate when it was close to the ground, and more debris may be found near the spot.” Zhu added that meteorites are common in stone, iron and stone-iron, but it is difficult to tell only from photos. It needs to be analysed by laboratories and experts.

Zhang Baolin, a Chinese meteorite expert, said that like most meteorites falling on the Earth, this fragment probably came from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. The radiation of meteorite fragments is low, so there is no danger with skin contact. The meteorite fragment is also a precious research sample.

In recent years, meteorites have been discovered in many places across the country, and some Chinese web users are curious whether they belong to the discoverer or the local government. In this regard, Fu Jian, director of Henan Zejin Law Firm, said, “If it is a meteorite with important scientific research value, which belongs to the category of natural resources, then according to Article 250 of China’s Civil Code, the meteorite should belong to the state. If the meteorite has no scientific research value, the preemption principle of the Civil Code can be applied and the discoverer can own it. If meteorites with scientific research value are handed over to the state, the government should give certain rewards to the discoverers.”