[meteorite-list] Park Forest Article in Chicago Tribune
From: joseph_town_at_att.net <joseph_town_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:32:55 2004
And what's the point of wasting space with that old hat?
> `Park Forest Meteorite Fall': One year, many deals later
> By Sean D. Hamill
> Special to the Tribune
> March 26, 2004
> An instant before a light lit up the sky over Chicago's southern suburbs
> just before midnight on March 26, 2003, a sonic boom walloped the air.
> Then came dozens of flourishes in quick succession, as if it were the finale
> of the 4th of July fireworks.
> "Ka-POW! Ka-POW! Ka-POW! Ka-POW!"
> At the time, no one could have known that these sights and sounds, centered
> over the middle-class town of Park Forest, foretold a whirlwind of greed for
> some, salvation for others and an education for all.
> "It was definitely unique in that it was the most populous area ever struck
> by a fall of this size," said Menakshi Wadhwa, the Field Museum's meteorite
> curator. "For a meteorite curator, what better thing could you ask for?"
> Meteorites hit the Earth all the time. And through history some have hit
> cars, homes and even cows. But, in large part because 70 percent of the
> globe is covered in water, never before have so many meteorites hit all at
> once in such a densely populated area.
> Still, it might have been easy to miss the story. Coming a week after the
> beginning of the present Persian Gulf war, it played on the inside pages of
> most newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, and generated small reports
> on local television and radio. Soon, the story faded from view.
> In the simplest terms, meteorites are fragments of a meteor that has broken
> up as it entered Earth's atmosphere. Meteors are generally considered
> smaller than asteroids, and both are stony, metal-laden objects with
> important stories to tell.
> "The processes that formed this meteor are the processes present at the very
> beginning of the solar system," said the Indian-born Wadhwa, one of the
> world's foremost meteorite authorities. "If you can understand what went
> into it, you can understand the building blocks of what went into the
> creation of our own planet."
> Peter Brown, assistant professor of astronomy at Western Ontario University
> in Canada, refers to the Park Forest object as a "meteoroid" because he now
> believes, based on his studies over the last year, that when it entered the
> atmosphere it weighed up to 10 tons and was about 5 feet in diameter.
> While Wadhwa has focused on trying to figure out what the meteor is made up
> of and how it was made, Brown has been trying to figure out exactly where it
> came from. The Park Forest meteor "is pretty important," Brown said. "It's
> only the eighth time ever where we've made an accurate orbit of a
> Brown and his colleagues are convinced it came from the asteroid belt
> between Mars and Jupiter, but, at some point in its 4.6 billion-year life,
> it was struck by something that threw it into a much longer elliptical
> "Once that happened, it's just a matter of time before it hits the Earth, or
> heads into the sun, or gets knocked out of the solar system," he said.
> Despite astronomical odds, this meteor headed here.
> Fortunately for residents of the southwest suburbs, this meteor was an "L5,"
> or low iron, chondrite meteor, said Wadhwa, who recently completed a
> scientific paper on the meteor with University of Chicago assistant
> professor Steve Simon.
> These are among the most common meteors, and unlike some heavy iron meteors,
> they largely disintegrate before they hit the Earth.
> 44,000 m.p.h.
> When it hit the Earth's atmosphere Brown estimates it was traveling up to
> 44,000 m.p.h. Thousands of pieces were scattered over a six-mile-wide field
> that stretched from Olympia Fields to Crete, but centered over Park Forest.
> "Three things make meteorite collectors excited," said Michael Blood, a
> meteorite dealer from San Diego. "If it was a witnessed fall, if it hit
> something, and if it's a rare petrographical type."
> "This wasn't [petrographically] rare, but it was witnessed and hit a number
> of things," said Blood, 58, who has been dealing in stones from space for 15
> years. "This was the biggest event in modern times among the meteorite
> collecting community."
> Within a few hours of the fall, about 30 major meteorite collectors and
> dealers from around the globe were headed to Chicago.
> "People thought they were going to be millionaires," said Adam Hupe, a
> meteorite collector from Renton, Wash., who made it to Park Forest the day
> after the fall but left just a few days later because the price was too
> high. "I told people to call us when all the hype died down."
> Within days after the "Park Forest Meteorite Fall" as it has become known,
> the price quickly rose from $1 a gram (meteorites are always sold by the
> metric weight of grams) to $20.
> It wasn't just collectors and dealers driving the price up, either.
> Scientists like Wadhwa joined the fray.
> She eventually bought five meteorites, but one that she and many other
> museums would love to have is one Blood is trying to sell on consignment for
> brothers Adam and Greg Hupe.
> Garzas gain reknown
> Known as "the Garza Stone," it is the most famous of all the fragments that
> crashed to Earth in Park Forest.
> It was named after the family whose home the 5-pound rock smashed into,
> creating a hole in the roof before it bounced around the second floor and
> came to rest a few feet from the head of the homeowners' 14 year-old son.
> (It's the habit of meteorite collectors to give unofficial names to some
> stones that have a history behind them, so that, in addition to the Garza
> Stone, other large meteorites from Park Forest have been tagged "the curb
> smasher" and "the fence buster" among others.)
> The Garza Stone gained fame not only because it crashed through a roof, but
> because it had a great public-relations machine behind it in homeowner Noe
> Garza, who spent nearly all of the day after the meteorite fall talking to
> everyone and anyone who showed up to interview him.
> "I enjoyed it," said Garza, a steelworker who works in Chicago Heights. "I
> wasn't camera shy at all. I like to talk."
> He also likes to deal.
> For more than a month after the fall, Garza played four of the world's most
> prominent meteorite dealers against each other before accepting an offer for
> the stone.
> Though Garza won't say exactly what he was paid, other meteorite dealers
> believe he received about $20 per gram for the stone from the Hupes, which
> works out to $46,000 -- a figure Garza didn't dispute.
> But the buying didn't stop there. The Hupes and another dealer, Jim Lang,
> bought just about everything the meteorite touched, including the roof and
> ceiling with the hole in it, the window sill it dented, the shards of glass
> from the mirror it broke, even the window blinds it ripped through.
> "My $10 blinds I bought at Menards, they gave me $200 for them," Garza
> recalled. "I'm like . . . I'll take it!"
> The idea, said Adam Hupe, was that with the stone and the pieces of the home
> it hit put together, the Hupes and Lang could re-create the home in an
> interactive exhibit that they could tour around the country to make money.
> But earlier this year, after Lang and Hupes couldn't agree on the
> parameters, the deal fell apart and the Hupes -- who haven't fulfilled
> Wadhwa's prediction of slicing the meteorite up -- put it up for sale
> through Blood at $25 a gram, or $58,000. It has yet to sell.
> Though Adam Hupe said he could get up to $125 a gram by slicing up the rock,
> he said he'll never do that -- "That's like cutting into history."
> Though Hupe doesn't intend to cut up his rock, others have. Slices of a gram
> or less -- cut in thin slices to make it easier for regular collectors to
> buy -- of Park Forest meteorites continue to show up for sale on the
> Internet and eBay, routinely selling for about $40 to $50 a gram.
> The Illinois Department of Human Services still owns two large rocks: a
> 2-pounder found the morning after the fall, and a 5-pounder found on a
> department roof in August during a regular inspection.
> And the largest chunk yet -- an 11-pounder -- was found two months after the
> fall in a back yard on the edge of the Olympia Fields Golf Course.
> Steve Arnold, a meteorite broker from Kingston, Ark., is trying to sell the
> 11-pounder for the man who found it, at a price of $50,000.
> In the hunt
> The discovery, though, has only enticed more meteorite hunters to return to
> look for the "main mass," a stone weighing perhaps hundreds of pounds, which
> some believe still lies out there somewhere in one of the many forest
> preserves in the south suburbs.
> "Everyone would love to find it," said Arnold, who intends to return this
> summer to look for smaller stones. "But, nothing else has shown up lately,
> and a year later, odds are that it won't unless it's accidental."
> After the fall last year, it took more than a month for the major ruckus to
> die down in town. But even now, meteorite enthusiasts, and simple curiosity
> seekers, continue to stop by asking for directions to particular locations,
> said Police Chief Francis DioGuardi.
> "It was crazy," said the 33-year veteran of the department. "When we were
> holding most of the meteorites [while investigating what they were], it was
> like we were the keepers of the royal jewels."
> The first few hours of that event will forever stay with DioGuardi, who was
> home sleeping when he got a call just after midnight.
> "They called to tell me there was this large flash in the sky and some
> citizens say something hit their house and we think it might be a meteorite.
> Well, OK," he said with a laugh.
> "But then there's this realization that this was a once-in-a-lifetime
> experience," he said. "And it definitely was."
> Copyright (c) 2004, Chicago Tribune
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Received on Fri 26 Mar 2004 07:44:23 PM PST