[meteorite-list] Possible Meteorite Lands In New York
Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Sun Sep 24 17:46:11 EDT 2006
Sun Sep 24 17:46:11 EDT 2006
Possible Meteorite Lands In Fluvanna
By PATRICK L. FANELLI
The Post-Journal (Jamestown, New York)
9/23/2006 - FLUVANNA - Fluvanna resident Brenda Barden doesn't know for
sure if whatever left a smoldering hole in her backyard was a meteorite
from outer space.
It seems to be a pretty good guess, though.
"We think that's what it was, or what was left of a falling star,"
said Ms. Barden, a resident of Old Fluvanna Road.
Whatever it was left a hole roughly three feet deep and the size of a
manhole in her backyard a couple weeks ago and set fire to a tree trunk
that was buried underground. She said she smelled it during the night
and thought a neighbor was having a bonfire nearby - but sure enough,
there was a hole there the next day that wasn't there before.
"It left a big hole in our backyard," Ms. Barden said. "The fire
department came and put it out. It had burned all night I guess."
Gary Nelson, amateur astronomer and president of the Marshal Martz
Memorial Astronomical Association, said it might indeed have been a
meteorite - a piece of rocky debris that penetrated the atmosphere and
struck the surface of the Earth.
"That's not uncommon," Nelson said. "Eventually, it burns down to the
size of a rock, but it hits with such an impact that it can leave a hole
Meteoroids - which are any sort of small debris in the solar system -
hit the Earth's atmosphere all the time at speeds of up to five miles or
more a second, though it is far less common for them to penetrate the
atmosphere and reach the Earth's surface. It's even less likely for
anyone to notice.
"What they do is they hit our atmosphere, and what will happen is, if
they don't come in at a certain angle, it will skip like a stone going
across water and light up across the sky," Nelson said.
When the object leaves behind a fiery, glowing trail, they are referred
to as meteors or shooting stars, but when one reaches the ground, they
are referred to as meteorites. They don't have to be very large to
penetrate the atmosphere without completely burning up, according to Nelson.
"If it hits the atmosphere at just the right angle, it doesn't have to
be very large," he said.
Scientists estimate that 500 meteorites as small as a pebble and as big
as a soccer ball hit the ground every year, sometimes causing damage to
property. In fact, the famous 1908 Tunguska Event involved a meteorite
or a small asteroid causing an explosion in Siberia that was equivalent
to roughly 10 megatons of TNT and scorched an area 30 miles in diameter.
According to Nelson, if it really was a meteorite that caused the
smoldering hole in Ms. Barden's backyard, it was certainly a noteworthy
and rare occurrence.
"It was probably burning about 18 to 20 hours. By that time, you
couldn't really see anything. Everything was burnt," Ms. Barden said.
"(The fire department) had no explanation. It was just a hole. It's in
the middle of nowhere."