[meteorite-list] NPA 06-01-1973 Lincoln Evening Journal

MARK BOSTICK thebigcollector at msn.com
Sat Sep 11 16:59:29 EDT 2004

Paper: Lincoln Evening Journal
City: Lincoln, Nebraska
Date: Friday, June 1, 1973
Page: 13

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 
prairie network.
     "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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