[meteorite-list] Colorado Meteor Makes New York Times
From: Matt Morgan <mmorgan_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:48:55 2004
We are gonna find this one folks...
September 2, 2001
A Meteor's Remnants Draw a Posse
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
ENVER, Sept. 1 - The hunt will soon be on for the remnants of a meteor that
lighted up the night sky last month, dazzling witnesses in several states.
On the night of Aug. 17, away from the city lights of this rapidly growing
region, people - whether they were sitting in a hot tub, taking a break on a
porch swing or gathering around a campfire - stopped and looked to the
stars. Witnesses from as far north as Idaho and as far south as New Mexico
said they saw a brilliant fireball. Some Coloradans heard sonic booms.
Data from an acoustic tracking system at a laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.,
indicated that the meteor was 40 times brighter than a full moon and might
have weighed a ton as it hit the Earth's atmosphere traveling about 11.25
miles a second.
"As we were sitting around the fire talking, all of a sudden it looked like
the sun had come up," said Kent Hups, 43, a tae kwon do teacher from
Thornton, Colo. Mr. Hups was staying at a guest ranch outside of Gunnison,
Colo., when he saw the meteor with 15 other people. "As it came down, it
sizzled and broke up and then turned red. Like a minute later we started
Jack Murphy, geology curator with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science,
said: "This isn't the typical fireball. This is bigger and brighter than
anything we've worked on before."
The unusual trajectory - straight down rather than an arc - and intensity of
the meteor could mean that the remaining meteorite is made of iron instead
of stone, as most are. Mr. Murphy said that any sounds made by the meteor
were probably made as the rock moved through the atmosphere, a journey that
also burned most of its mass.
Mr. Murphy has put hundreds of miles on his car seeking out people like Mr.
Hups. Mr. Murphy has also received hundreds of telephone calls and e-mail
messages. Each interview can provide another clue in narrowing the area to
search for a meteorite, the rock that remains after a meteor falls to the
ground. Mr. Murphy leads a "meteorite posse" of mostly volunteers and plans
to keep gathering data, including witness accounts, compass bearings and
altitude measurements, for at least one more week before conducting a ground
A meteorite is the property of the owner of the land it falls on, and any
meteorite hunters must receive permission from private or government
landowners to remove the space rock. "What we'd like is for the landowners
to invite our team to do a search for them," Mr. Murphy said.
The sooner the meteorite is found the better for scientific research, if for
example, there is water inside it.
"The allure of meteorites, from a scientific standpoint, is that they are
oldest things we can get our hands on," said Matt Morgan, a geologist for
the Colorado Geological Survey. "Rocks on Earth are 3.6 billion years old,
and rocks from space are maybe 4.5 billion years old. It can be a great
sample of the asteroid belt."
Mr. Morgan, the author of "The Handbook of Colorado Meteorites," did not see
the fireball but did research and planned a search in the mountains of
Colorado. "What's really cool for me is being the first one to touch it,"
Mr. Morgan said with a laugh. "It's the poor man's space sample."
Despite the dramatic light show, Mr. Morgan said, the meteorite could be the
size of a baseball or smaller, or it could be broken into thousands of
fragments. And he said that, unlike in the movies, there were no burn marks
to lead researchers down the path to the rock.
Mr. Morgan buys and sells meteorites on the Internet and said that prices
ranged from $1 to $2 a gram to thousands of dollars per gram for lunar or
Martian rocks. "They're more rare than gold," he said.
But for many the biggest thrill was just to see the meteor. "It's a pretty
big event around here," said Patti Powers, owner of the Antlers Rio Grande
Lodge and Riverside Restaurant in Creede, Colo. "The sky just lit up from
horizon to horizon, and then it was like a full moon coming down as it
Mr. Hups said he planned to join the search with Mr. Murphy. "This will make
finding a needle in a haystack look easy," Mr. Hups said. "I figure I can
buy a Powerball ticket or find meteorites, the odds are the same."
Received on Sun 02 Sep 2001 01:40:38 AM PDT