Found a Meteorite? Want to See One? Meet an Expert Saturday

NASA astronomer will stage an informational event in Novato, so go space rock hunting.

Rock stars, unite! Wait, we're talking space rocks here.

If you think you may have found one of the Novato meteorites from the Oct. 17 fireball that disintegrated over the North Bay, or you would like to see the real deal, there's an event set up for you on Nov. 17.

Meteor astronomer Dr. Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute in Mountain View will host a free public event to verify possible meteorite discoveries and map the locations where Novato meteorites landed. The event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of Novato.

Jenniskens said he is interested in meeting eyewitnesses who saw the fireball in Novato or southern Sonoma County on Oct. 17 and who can give details.

He said he hopes more meteorites will be found so people can investigate the diversity of materials that may have fallen. Based on his video observations of the fireball, Jenniskens calculated that meteorites would have landed in a five-mile-wide strip from Novato through the city of Sonoma (see attached map of trajectory).

On the NASA Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance project, cameras in Sunnyvale and at College of San Mateo captured two views of the fireball. Scientists calculated a trajectory and projected a fall area in the North Bay, specifically from the Pleasant Valley area of Novato and beyond toward Sonoma and Napa counties.

So far, five meteorites have been verified.

The first meteorite was found several days after it hit the roof of Rev. Kent and Lisa Webber’s Novato home and bounced into their yard (Kent Webber is pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Novato.) The 2-inch rock was 63 grams, dense and responded to a magnet, according to the SETI Institute, a nonprofit scientific and education organization that has projects sponsored by NASA and other foundations and research groups.

Lisa Webber gave her rock to neighbor Glenn Rivera after Jenniskens decided— initially—that it was not a meteorite. After more information came in, he changed his mind, and UCLA researcher Alan Rubin has since confirmed Jenniskens' findings. Part of Rivera's meteorite was just sent to Italy for gamma-ray photon testing at Gran Sasso National Laboratory.

Jenniskens told Rivera that the space rock is one of only 20 ever found of that particular type.

"All the researchers are stoked because it's a really rare one," Rivera said.

The Novato meteorite features a brown-black, crusty exterior, maybe with small, rusted spots after recent rainfall. The meteorites feel heavy for their size and may show a gray, granitic interior, Jenniskens said. Rocks may also appear out of place, shattered from falling on pavement, or in a shallow pit.

If you can't make it Saturday but think you might have stumbled upon the real thing, you can still send videos or photographs from any possible meteorite to Petrus.M.Jenniskens@nasa.gov.

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