[meteorite-list] Car Hit By Meteorite

From: Kelly Webb <kelly_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:42:00 2004
Message-ID: <3A62886F.F7A88917_at_bhil.com>

Hi, List,

    Elton Jones forwarded to me (Thanks, Elton!) this recent Associated
Press report about another automobile struck by a meteorite (in 1996)
that apparently has been verified by a geologist, Paul Weiblen of the
University of Minnesota. Has anyone else heard anything about this
incident or know anything about its validity?

    As you'll see the report (below) certainly sounds like a reasonable
description of a chondrite. Wonder what those "further tests" were?

    The AP report also says the car owner "has been in contact with a
dealer" about selling the meteorite. Is anybody on the List involved in
the dickering and when can we expect pieces of the Clayton car-killer to
pop up on eBay?! Well, alright, it wasn't really a "car-killer," only an
eighty gram stone that broke the windshield of a Geo Metro and was
itself broken in the process.

    In my post to the List about calculating the frequency of meteorite
infall from the data for targets that they strike, I wrote: "The data
for U.S. automobiles is 250% of expectation, suggesting a flux of 59,825
meteorites per year..."

    That was based on four hits on U.S. automobiles per century. This
incident, if verified, would raise that to five hits per century (two of
them within four years!) or three times the number expected from an
infall of roughly 24,000 meteorites per year, which implies about 72,000
meteorites per year actually fall.

    For the decade of the 1990's, taken separately, two hits is more
than five times the chance expectation for the "official" rate of 24,000
meteorites per year, which would translate to an equivalent rate of
125,000 meteorites per year! (To have a 50/50 chance of one U.S. car hit
in the 1990's would require a fall rate of about 63,000 meteorites per
year; two hits would require a rate double that.)

Kelly Webb

Here's the AP report:

Rock That Damaged Car Was Meteorite

(c) The Associated Press

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - It was no ordinary rock that broke Rick Wirth's
windshield four years ago. It came from outer space. And it's older
than the Earth.

    Wirth got confirmation that his rock is a meteorite from a geology
professor Monday.

    In 35 years at the University of Minnesota, professor Paul Weiblen
said he has seen thousands of rocks brought in by people who thought
they had meteorites. All of them were mere Earth rocks.

    But when last month he saw the rock that broke through the
windshield of Wirth's Geo Metro and split in two, Weiblen figured his
luck had changed.

    ``I feel every sample someone thinks might be a meteorite is worth
looking at,'' Weiblen said. ``But when I opened this package I knew.''

    With a gray interior and ash-black exterior, the halves sported
telltale signs that indicated they were meteorites. Further testing of
the rocks, which together weigh 3 ounces and are 2 inches long,
confirmed it.

    For Wirth, the findings are vindication of his hunch about what
happened to his windshield as it was parked in his driveway in Clayton,
Wis., on Oct. 21, 1996.

    ``When I took it to work and told the guys that I had a meteorite,
they said, `Yeah, right,''' said Wirth, a welder. ``But I was pretty
sure it was a meteorite.''

    But he didn't follow up on his hunch until his son took the specimen
to a rock show a few months ago. Someone who saw it said it was a
meteorite, and Wirth got in touch with Weiblen.

    Meteorite finds are rare. The Earth is bombarded with thousands of
meteoroids each year but most burn up as they hit the atmosphere.

    Scientists classify meteorites that reach the earth as ``falls'' if
their descent was witnessed or - like Wirth's - can be documented
through the damage they do. Only about 1,000 are known, Weiblen said.
More common are the ``finds,'' meteorites that came to Earth at an
unknown time.

    Wirth has been in contact with a dealer and may sell the two pieces
of his meteorite, which could fetch several thousand dollars.

    But even if the meteorite is sold, Weiblen said the chance to study
it has been priceless. Most meteorites, including Wirth's, were formed
4.56 billion years ago, giving scientists a chance to examine something
older than the Earth.

    ``It's a little messenger that came in the quiet of the night,''
Weiblen said. ``It's telling a story of what happened around the time
the sun evolved and even before the Earth was formed.''

AP-NY-07-25-00 1300EDT

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP
news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated
Received on Mon 15 Jan 2001 12:19:45 AM PST

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