Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Catch A Falling Star

Meteor fragments?
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket.
Never let it fade away.
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket.
Save it for a rainy day.
Dateline Sunday, April 22, at approximately 8AM, a meteor exploded over Lotus, California waking some with a boom and pelting rocks on rooftops. By Tuesday morning renowned meteorite hunter Robert Ward arrived and promptly found the first meteor pieces in the parking lot of Lotus Park. Over the next few days several others were found in the vicinity. Soon scads of locals and amateur meteorite hunters combed the area wielding magnets on sticks and metal detectors. Several finders were rewarded with cash offers to buy the black space rocks on the spot.

Among the locals were yours truly and my obsessed... I mean... fascinated husband, Bob. Returning from an appointment on Thursday, he approached me with a familiar slight smile, raised cheeks and starry eyes.

"We gotta go looking for meteor rocks."

I looked up from my laptop, "No, really?"

The thrill of finding a meteorite 15 minutes from our home was too much to ignore. The next morning we ended up in Lotus Park talking with Robert Ward.
Robert Ward, Meteor Hunter
Robert Ward, Meteorite Hunter, Showing Meteorites to Excited Young Boys.
We formed an alliance, a la Survivor, to help Ward get onto various properties in the area that fell in the meteor drop zone.

On Tuesday (nine days after the meteor fell), while walking on a 1500-acre property west of the original discovery site, Ward found a very small fragment. He and Bob walked four feet abreast down a dirt road when he called out the finding.

Ward exhibits a childlike passion for the thrill of the hunt and unbridled exuberance when he finds a meteor. Fuel to further the hunt, which requires tenacity and drive. It's a lot of looking between finding anything.
Carbonaceous chondrite meteor fragment
Meteor Fragment (center) Compared to GPS Device
I decided to return to the hunt this morning with Bob. Having heard rumors of someone spotting a fragment in Rescue, we stopped first at the post office there. That's where I found the handful of fragments (photo above and below). We quickly called Ward and he and one of his team met us in the parking lot. I showed him my find to which he quickly said, "No. That's just yard rock." What most know as lava rock.
Lava Rock
Okay, more lessons in becoming a trained observer (or should I say hunter) of space rocks.

In case you think anyone would be happy to cooperate in the advancement of science and allow hunters to search their property. Think again. There were a few landowners that weren't too keen on the recent spotlight to their rural, sleepy community. The South Fork of the American River that wends its way through the area has posted quiet zones along residential areas of the river's shores. Just a reminder to the daily armada of rafters that paddle their way through the churning white waters.

The meteor that exploded over Lotus, according to NASA scientists, was the size of a mini-van, weighing over 77 tons. Most meteors seen in the night sky are tiny rocks leaving a visible trial for only seconds. The Lotus meteor exploded with the force of one-third the energy of the bomb dropped over Hiroshima in World War II making it visible in the morning daylight for hundreds of miles.

The thrill of the hunt dies quickly after drudging over acres of land all day and coming up empty handed. I wasn't interested in spending 120 hours per meteorite that one hunter divulged it took him to find some of his collection. I'll be staying home back at my laptop, leaving the meteorite hunting to the experts.

In case you're interested in learning how to hunt for meteorites here are five steps to finding a meteorite.

Have you ever been involved in a hunt for something rare? Shopping doesn't count. :-)

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