[meteorite-list] Possible Meteorite Found On Golf Course In Illinois
Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Sep 14 13:22:21 EDT 2006
Thu Sep 14 13:22:21 EDT 2006
Possible meteorite found on golf course
September 14, 2006
The cosmos must have been playing a game of golf in Aurora.
Defying what a local science professor calls "astronomical odds," what
appears to be a pea-sized meteorite was found this summer on the green
at the 14th hole at the Aurora Country Club.
"The odds of anybody finding something like this around here or anywhere
is pretty remote," said Mark Horrell, who has a PhD in geophysical
science and teaches astronomy and astrophysics at the Illinois
Mathematics and Science Academy.
On Wednesday, Horrell examined the extraterrestrial pebble and
determined it "has all the hallmarks of a meteorite," but more
conclusive tests will need to be conducted.
Golf course grounds superintendant John Gurke found the meteorite while
doing his normal early morning scouting for turf disease or "anything
out of the ordinary" at the course on the southwest side of Aurora. From
afar, he noticed a burn mark about five inches in diameter "dead center"
of the green.
At first, Gurke was peeved because he thought it was a urination stain
from a coyote or fox. But as he got closer, he noticed a small hole in
the center of the burn spot and dug out the spherical rock and some
Gurke ran to his office and googled "meteorite."
"It described exactly what I found," he said.
Gurke's wife, Julie, who works at Aurora University, asked science
professors there what they thought. Eventually, they referred the Gurkes
to Horrell at IMSA, a residential high school in Aurora for some of the
most gifted science students in the state.
Horrell and Bob Brazzle, a physics teacher at IMSA, were star-struck
when they realized the rock actually could be a meteorite.
"A lot of people think they found one but it's actually a piece of
limestone or something," Horrell said. "There's nothing I've ever seen
He said only about one in 1,000 suspected meteorites actually turn out
to be meteorites.
And Gurke's is on it's way to being one of them. The rock reacted to a
magnet, meaning it has the high content of iron found in meteorites, and
it came with a charred-looking outer crust showing that it cooled and
recrystallized after being heated in the atmosphere, Brazzle said. The
pea-sized pebble was made even smaller Wednesday, when it was cracked
Horrell said its texture and dark lavender and metallic color is not
like anything you'd expect to find naturally occurring in the Midwest.
Both scientists said it's very rare to find a meteorite that small
because they typically become camouflaged in the ground.
"If it hadn't been on the green he probably wouldn't have found it,"
Horrell said. He said most meteorites found are the size of a softball.
Brazzle said it was possible more meteorites could be found in the area
because meteorites don't typically fly solo.
IMSA professors and students, and possibly professionals at the
University of Illinois at Chicago, will do further testing on the
meteorite. If it is in fact a meteorite, Brazzle said, it would likely
be named "Aurora" after the place it was found.
But since there might already be a meteorite with that name, "maybe
they'll call it Aurora Country Club," Horrell joked.