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Many may be aware that Paragould had an interstellar visitor on Feb 17, 1930. Not the green kind with the flying saucer, rather a massive asteroid that slammed into earth’s atmosphere at 30,000 mph. There was a tremendous sonic boom that rattled windows and brought out residents into the street at 4:15 a.m. The more religious residents believed that angel Gabriel had blown his horn for the final recall of the human race.

Over the next five weeks, five fragments of the meteorite were found southwest of Paragould near Finch. The largest broke the U.S. record at 820 pounds. It was found on Joe Fletcher’s property buried eight feet down and having punched into hard clay. A 75-pound piece was found and donated to Paragould High School’s physics class. Parkensen, the donator, later changed his mind and assaulted the school principal. He paid a $2.50 fine for battery, and then sued for compensation because the class sold the stone for $320. A third piece is reported at 10 pounds but is possibly a fragment broken off the 75-pound mass when it was found. There is no concrete documentation on this third piece. Two other small fragments where found in a clearing and sold to H.H. Nininger.

The 820-pound Fletcher stone was put up for sale and a bidding war broke out between Nininger, Stuart H Perry and the American History Museum in New York. From records obtained from the Smithsonian, the bidding rose to astronomical heights. The going rate at the time was $1 a pound, so the stone’s market rate should have been $820. However, the auction drove the price up to $3,600 mainly because Nininger used an attorney as his bidding agent and the other two parties didn’t know who he was representing. Only near the end when Nininger wrote the other bidders did they cease bidding against him. By then, Nininger paid dearly for it, according to Stuart Perry Papers at the Smithsonian and “Find a Falling Star” by Nininger.

Well, that is all old news. Yet, in the intervening 80 years, we’ve learned much about meteorite science. One thing we’ve learned is that we didn’t find it all. There are still meteorite fragments around Finch in someone’s farm field and woods. Likely they sunk in deep. The 75-pounder went in about 3 inches. Smaller ones would have punched in a foot or less; those may turn up by the plow. Nininger reported that the two small pieces he bought were punched in 4 inches, the other on the surface. They were found on a path, according to Nininger Collection at Arizona State University. There should have been many stones that hit tree limbs then fell to the ground and didn’t punch in.

When the asteroid struck the earth’s atmosphere it was traveling at cosmic velocity estimated at 20,000-40,000 mph. At this velocity the atmosphere is so thick relative to its speed that it bores a hole thorough the atmosphere. The result of this boring is to heat up the front of the rock like a hot drill. At some point, the rock gets so hot it glows, then melts, hence a flash of a meteor id visible. That’s not all — this asteroid was big, estimated at 5 feet in diameter, approximately the size of a Volkswagen bus. When meteors of that size heat up, fractures occur in the stone and they fragment. This happened probably 15 miles up, at which time it is a flying gravel pit that is on fire. Once it slows down, the biggest pieces go furthest and the lighter pieces fall short. The meteorite debris field is called

a strewnfield.

Most meteorite falls drop at least dozens of stones. A meteorite fall in Canada last year at Thanksgiving dropped thousands of fragments. The recent meteorite fall Feb. 15 east of Waco, Texas, dropped hundreds of small fragments over 17 miles. Most were the size of pecans and found, on average, every 10 hours of walking. There is every reason to believe that there are meteorite fragments of the Paragould fall still in the area. Dozens of them. The larger ones, fist sized, will be plowed up if they are found at all.

To inspire search efforts, a bounty of $1,000 per pound will be offered for any piece of the Paragould meteorite. Bear in mind that under U.S. law, meteorites are the property of the owner of the land they fall on. Landowners must give permission before walking on their land.

What to look for: A rusty brown rock that attracts a magnet. Smooth surface except where broken, no bubbles.

It will not have bubbles or holes in it like lava rock or iron slag. Put a magnet to the stone to see if it is slightly magnetic, then there is no other reliable test to do except make a photo.

McCartney Melville Taylor, an engineer and a meteorite researcher, will be in Newport for a few days around Christmas this year, and willing to make house calls to see “odd” rocks and potential irons. Please e-mail him at mccartney@texasmeteoritelab.com with photos of potential fragments. The photograph of the rock should be taken outside in sunlight from about a foot away. E-mail him the photo and he will respond if he needs to see the rock.

source: with map:

Bounty offered for Paragould Meteorite.

That would be in Arkansas

Merry Christmas all!

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