[meteorite-list] Meteorite Found in Georgia
Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Tue Mar 27 14:13:10 EDT 2007
Tue Mar 27 14:13:10 EDT 2007
Dr. Chris Romanek plans to put the meteorite on
display at the University of Georgia. gibbons
SREL geologist works on verifying meteorite
By MICHAEL W. GIBBONS
March 27, 2007
Chris Romanek knows it's probably a wild goose chase. After all, he goes
on one about once a month.
Romanek, a geologist with the University of Georgia's Savannah River
Ecology Laboratory, is always eager, though, because he knows each time
he takes the call, there is a chance, albeit a slim one, that he finds a
The latest chase: An Aiken man awoke to a loud thump on his roof. When
Romanek arrived, he quickly identified the suspect rock of being of this
earth, limestone in fact, possibly courtesy of a strong-armed passerby.
"It's very difficult some times when they have such high expectations
and it turns out it's not a meteorite," he said. Those in the field even
have a name for the suspect rocks: Meteorwrongs.
True meteorite finds are rare. In fact, Romanek has only been contacted
by a single person who had an actual meteorite, and he is hoping that a
North Dakota potato field will provide him with a small piece of an
enormous galactic puzzle.
Romanek was contacted by Hephzibah, Ga., resident Karin Waycaster last
year, who wanted him to inspect a rock her grandmother found in the
1970s. Decades ago, Waycaster's grandmother had been working in a potato
field, sorting bad potatoes off a conveyer belt, when a 10-pound mass of
dense rock came her way. It sat idle at her home for decades, and when
her grandmother passed away two years ago, Waycaster came upon the object.
"I said, 'What is this?' It was laying on the floor in my grandma's
house, and my uncle proceeded to tell me what they thought it was," she
The homeschool teacher used the suspected meteorite in teaching her 11-
and 13-year-olds during lessons on the solar system, providing a rare
prop for any school, much less a home school.
"There were a lot of homeschool moms that were like, 'Wow!'" she said.
When Romanek was contacted, his first order of business was to verify
that the rock was in fact out of this world. He sliced a small portion
off (which Waycaster retained), and sent the specimen to the Smithsonian
Institute's Division of Meteorites for review. Without a doubt, the
Smithsonian said, it was a meteorite. Romanek said it most likely
plummeted to earth after breaking away from an asteroid belt between
Mars and Jupiter.
"What makes this particular one special - not only for me - it's the
first one that's ever been brought to the University of Georgia that
turned out to be a meteorite," he said.
Romanek's next step is to do more analysis and make the meteorite official.
"We now have to fully determine the meteorite's attributes for
publication in a scientific journal, and then submit a request to have
this meteorite named by an official governing body that recognizes
meteorites," he said. (Meteorites are often named for the nearest town
with a post office.)
When the process of analysis and naming is complete, which could take a
year more, the meteorite will be put on display at the University of
Georgia. The information gleaned from the meteorite will be used by
scientists - and students - to learn more about the heavens above,
"This particular type of meteorite can tell us about conditions that
existed in the solar system probably before our planet was even formed.
So if we want to understand about the origin of our solar system, we'll
study it, and with the knowledge we gain, we place that in the context
of what's known about other meteorites to better understand the origin
of our solar system," he said.
While tons of meteorites crash to the earth each year, the vast majority
land in the oceans. Scientists studying meteorites use a simple method
to find them: Go where there aren't rocks. NASA missions to Antarctica
each year yields hundreds of meteorites for study. That said, it is not
beyond the realm of possibility that one could land in your yard.
Romanek said the physical properties of the rock make it stand out.
"When you pick them up, you think, this doesn't look like a normal
rock," he said.