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Botswana meteorite. Photo: Peter Jenniskens

Three weeks after an asteroid was spotted streaking toward Earth, and then burning up in a flash of fire in the night sky over Africa, scientists have recovered a single meteorite.

The fragment was recovered in a game reserve in Botswana, after five days of scientists scouring the ground across miles of land. It was spotted by a geologist from the Botswana International University of Science and Technology.

Despite the best calculations and predictions available, the fragments had been scattered by winds over a huge expanse of the landscape, according to a statement released by the University of Helsinki.

The asteroid LA 2018 was spotted moving across the night sky by Richard Kowalski on June 2 at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona.

It was six feet in diameter, and traveling about 10 miles per second at the time it collided with Earth’s atmosphere, according to calculations.

The alerts were sent to the Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts, and also to NASA’s Headquarters, as well as its Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The prediction models forecast impact somewhere between southern Africa, the Indian Ocean, or even as far east as New Guinea.

Multiple security cameras captured the fireball burning up over Botswana.

After impact, the calculations of the landing area were made by two teams: Peter Jenniskens, of the SETI Institute in California; and the Finnish Fireball Network.

Upon arrival in Africa, Jenniskens and others consulted security surveillance video of the fireball to get a better triangulation for the search.

Jenniskens told Laboratory Equipment by email that the distance on traveled by the dozen searchers (two by car, the rest by foot) is difficult to estimate. But it was an approximate zig-zag pattern - and probably a linear distance of approximately 20 km, he said.

The single meteorite was found in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The piece will be analyzed by the Botswana Geoscience institute and will be held by the Botswana National Museum.

The search for more fragments continues, according to the experts. 

The detection and prediction was only the third time in history, the previous occurring in 2008 and 2014–both were observations made by Kowalski in Arizona.

This marks the second time pieces have been recovered.

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