[meteorite-list] NPA 06-01-1973 Lincoln Evening Journal
thebigcollector at msn.com
Sat Sep 11 16:59:29 EDT 2004
Paper: Lincoln Evening Journal
City: Lincoln, Nebraska
Date: Friday, June 1, 1973
Hot Meteorite Find Leads To Smithsonian Study
By Gene Kelly
If a meteorite fell on your front lawn, would you expect it to be hot
or cold? (There's this odd charred spot, about 4 inches in diameter, in the
green turf on Gary Smith's lawn at 4701 South 43rd in Lincoln.)
"There's no history, among the 2,000 recorded meteorite falls, of one
ever burning anything, grass or wood." noted Gunther Schwartz, field station
manager of a Smithsonian meteorite recovery project, with Lincoln
headquarters. "This one's very odd, if it's a meteorite. There are a few
cases of people having seen one impact, varying from slightly warm to the
touch, to having a frost coating."
Smith probed several inches into the burned circle, came up with a
fragment of rock - sort of "dumbbell shaped" he notes - found that it was
magnetic and called friends at the University of Nebraska.)
It's not in their hands.
Dr. Samuel Treves, curator of geology at the NU State Museum, says the
lawn spot is "very impressive....this thing had no place to come from but
up." he said, toying with the potential meteorite. "It could be a piece
from a satellite. Our testing will give us big clues. We'll etch it with
acid to see if it has a nickel structure and other meteorite
characteristics. Of course, a satellite fragment could contain nickel
Dr. Treves noted that this "peculiar chunk must have been tremendously
hot, although the impact site doesn't indicate much velocity. Often when
people dig immediately in a meteorite impact point they find it full of mud,
or only a piece of ice. The thing was so cold that moisture condensed. Or
it was so hot it vaporized.
The Smiths don't recall any odd noises around their home, meteor-like
flashes of light or odd happenings.
The so-called "shooting star" in the sky is a meteor. The same object
on the ground is a meteorite. Schwartz explains. As the meteor entered the
earth's upper atmosphere it burns due to friction. "The ballistics are the
same as spacecraft reentry. It's possible that one (meteorite) could land
still hot. But it's subcold up there. The meteor glow usually ceases at an
altitude of 10-12 miles, and the object free-falls." cushioned by air.
Schwartz calls meteors "unguided missiles," explaining that he's been
involved in basic research as a meteor astronomer for a decade. He's in
charge of a million-square mile prairie network of tracking cameras. At
dusk 64 automatic cameras at 16 stations in 7 Great Plains states begin
recording meteorite and satellite trails. The reconnaissance project puts
some 500 meteors on film each year.
But very few survive to become museum pieces, Schwartz rates even one
as small as the Smith find " a true meteorite." although he found a 22-pound
specimen in 1970 near Lost Creek, Okla., as a result of photos from the
"Meteors are far more fragile than we thought. They're quite cometary,
not as hard as we had supposed. Meteors often have the same orbit as comets
and are probably debris left over from comet streams." he said.
Another meteor theory is that they are particles of small smashed
planets, dating to the formation of this or other solar systems.
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