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Sierra Vista Reports Meteor


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SIERRA VISTA — A number of southeastern Arizona residents reported seeing a bright meteor in the night sky Tuesday, followed by a loud explosion-like sound as it fell to Earth.

At his home off of Highway 191, about seven miles south of Interstate 10, Wayne Crane said he saw the shooting star just as it lit up the sky shortly before 9:30 p.m.

“I was facing probably southwest, and I just happened to look up, and I saw a glowing object,” Crane said. The object appeared very bright and very large, “like a moon against the sky.”

The meteor was visible only briefly, said Crane, who is the public relations manager for Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative.

“It was only there for about a second and a half before it was gone. Almost, in fact, before I had realized what I had seen,” Crane said.

In Sierra Vista, several people report seeing and hearing the same object as it entered the atmosphere.

“The sky lit up and looked like fireworks or something,” said Cody Bastian. “It lasted maybe three seconds, and then shortly after I saw it, we heard a big crash or boom.”

Bastian and friend Amanda LaValley were walking along Calle Portal when they saw the meteor.

“It looked blue to me,” LaValley said. “It seemed to be sparkling.”

Said Bastian, “It looked like it fell somewhere toward Huachuca City.”

Their friend Carol Captain also saw the meteor from her driveway off of Lenzner Avenue.

“I thought it was a shooting star or something like that,” Captain said. “It looked white and very bright, but then, after it fell, there was a large boom. It looked like it fell somewhere between Fort Huachuca or Whetstone.”

Hereford resident Gini Hoffmeyer said she heard the noise from her home.

“I was sitting here about 9:20 p.m., and there was just this loud boom, and all the windows rattled and shook,” Hoffmeyer said. As she didn’t witness the meteor herself, Hoffmeyer said she was initially unsure what could have caused such a noise. “I looked outside to make sure nobody’s house had blown up,” she said.

Neal Galt, writer of the Backyard Astronomer column for the Herald/Review, said that the likelihood of any remains of the meteor reaching the planet’s surface depends on various factors, including the composition of the object.

“You can have things that are light and stony, and they break up very easily,” Galt said, “and then you have things made of iron, and those seem to stay together.” The velocity of the object also plays a part, he said.

The exceptional brightness of the meteor would classify it in astronomy circles as a “bolide,” he said. Typically, meteors such as the one that passed over southeastern Arizona Tuesday night are visible no farther than 100 miles away, he said.

Dr. Jack Schrader, a Sierra Vista dentist who has hunted for meteorites for 15 years, is eager to search for possible fragments from Tuesday’s event. “When you have a sonic boom, then there is a very good indication that there are pieces that have reached the Earth’s surface,” Schrader said.

He said he has received calls from fellow meteorite hunters in places like Prescott who plan to visit this area soon to hunt for fragments.

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Fireball Seen Over Tucson June 23

Numerous people called in to news stations and police last night, around 9:20 pm, when a bright fireball lit up the skies over Tucson. It may have been a chunk of cosmic debris, or it could have been a satellite or pieces of space junk burning up in the atmosphere.

Large fireballs are called bolides, and typically there might be one or two reported annually, worldwide, if that. Remarkably, this is the fourth large fireball to have been witnessed over North America during the past seven months. Two of those sightings Buzzard Coulee (Saskatchewan, November 20, 2008) and the West, Texas fireball (February 15, 2009) produced numerous meteorite fragments. I visited both sites with my recovery team and we found a number of excellent, freshly-fallen meteorites. The fireball seen last night over Tucson may also have scattered fragments of a similar extraterrestrial body over the desert of southern Arizona. Or they might be satellite parts, or they might have burned up completely. We don’t know yet.

Nighttime fireballs often produce a remarkable illusion: the light generated is so bright that the fireball often appears much closer than it really is. The West, Texas fireball that we investigated earlier this year was captured on camera from approximately 120 miles away. The difficult part is figuring out where the meteorites (if any) landed. Eyewitnesses close to the point of impact frequently report hearing loud sonic booms and rattling windows. One eyewitness to the famous Park Forest meteorite shower (Cook County, Illinois, March 26, 2003) told me he thought hailstones were hitting the roof of his house. In fact, they were small stone meteorites.

If you saw the event last night, and heard sonic booms, rumblings, “whizzing” sounds, or impacts on the roof of your house, very shortly after the fireball, please report details of the Tucson fireball.

Meteorites that have only been on the earth for a short time are of great value to researchers: the sooner fragments are collected, the less they have been contaminated by our atmosphere. Once meteorites have been exposed to rain, they often begin to rust and decompose. With the Monsoon season rapidly approaching, there may be only a short window during which uncontaminated pieces can be recovered.

This morning I was invited by KOLD News 13 meteorologist Erin Jordan to appear on the Live at Noon News to talk about the fireball. Our segment aired at noon and will likely repeat at 5 pm. The KOLD team were most enthusiastic and hospitable and enjoyed our show-and-tell traveling meteorite display.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking with an eyewitness to last night’s sky-illuminating event. He was in his living room, watching TV, around 9:20 pm when he saw an extremely bright flash through the windows. A security conscious individual, the gentleman keeps a surveillance camera running 24/7 and—incredibly enough—that camera was aimed in just the right direction to capture the fireball. What are the chances of that?

If you have information about the fireball, please share it. If it was a meteorite, we hope it might be possible to recover fragments for study. Events like this don’t happen every day, and it’s especially exciting that Tucson is the site of the latest fireball. After all, we do call Tucson “The Meteorite Capital of the World.”

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Hey,

Those look like beach finds. which beach were you hunting!!!

Just kidding nice finds, where from?

Dean

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