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It was a mystery more than three years in the making.

Not the bright lights reported across west-central Illinois the evening of Feb. 4, 2007.

Most already figured the widespread calls to law enforcement agencies in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois — including Morgan County — were the result of a meteor shower or pieces of space gunk entering the atmosphere.

But it was more than just earth getting a close-up view of the heavens’ castaways.

It was Marc Fries, a scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in San Diego, who finally pieced together the full extent of what happened that Sunday night in 2007.

There was “a significant meteorite fall just north of Jacksonville,” he said Friday.

Strewn across mostly farms and woodlands are perhaps dozens of metallic pieces of space, the culmination of thousands of miles of travel. Fries speculates many of the rocks, ranging in size from pebbles to bricks, have sat undisturbed since the fall or have been plowed underground as fields were readied for crops.

They’re there, though, and he said the fresh confirmation means galactic-treasure hunters are likely to visit soon.

“What has happened in the past is that people kind of descend on the fall” location, Fries said.

Proving that if you bolide it, they will come.

“This isn’t a new fall, but you’ll probably get people,” Fries said.

Scientists estimate there may be 500 meteorites reaching earth each year, but only a handful are recovered.

The Morgan County fall might have been just another of those cosmic occurrences lost to the ages if not for the curiosity of someone in Indiana who remembered seeing the lights in 2007 and asked Fries about it.

Fries, meanwhile, has been working on using weather radar archives to “track” meteorite falls. Much lilke a hailstorm or tornado, meteorites leave distinct signatures on radar.

After sifting through volumes and volumes of archived data, it became clear to him what had happened here. He saw that unique signature, the lateral shifts in the radar returns, the 130 mph winds of the meteorite’s jet stream.

“This is a meteorite fall which has gone unrecovered and would have been lost completely but was found in the radar archives,” he said. “We now know where the strewn field lies.”

The relative remoteness and because a lot of the strewn field is on private property, might be part of the reason it went unnoticed.

“Why hasn’t anyone reported a meteorite from this location? Heck, I don’t know. Why do people inject botulin toxin — one of the most deadly toxins known — directly into their faces? Why is bacon confined to breakfast? And why don’t we all have flying cars yet?” Fries said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone drives out there and finds someone using a meteorite to pound in fence posts without realizing what it is.”

source:

http://www.myjournalcourier.com/news/illinois-29114-central-north.html

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