Meteorite Fever!


It’s been a week since a fireball crossed Alabama’s sky last Tuesday and the race to find meteorites continues.  As the fireball streaked across the sky and burned up in our atmosphere, fragments from it rained down on Alabama. Doppler radars from as far away as Nashville and Peachtree City, GA detected the fragments as they fell to the Earth.  After analysis of observations and radar signatures, meteorites have been determined to be on the ground southeast of Moulton in southeastern Lawrence County and near Addison in northwest Winston County. The majority of where the meteorites likely fell is in Bankhead National Forrest, which has made search and recovery difficult, especially with leaves continuing to fall, likely covering up the expected pebble or larger size meteorites that fell.

NASA sent out two teams to search for meteorites last week and came back with some specimens, but none of which were meteorites.  Though it’s not just NASA scientists out searching for meteorites, private collectors and enthusiasts alike are as well. A group of private collectors scouring an area near Addison, in northwest Winston County found the first confirmed fragments of the meteor Saturday (View photos here).  Meteorites are named after the closest town/city they are found near, so the preliminary name for last Tuesday’s meteor, would be the ‘Addison Meteor’.  These are the first meteorites to be documented in Alabama since 1954.  The 1954 meteorite was the first confirmed meteorite to ever strike a person, which occurred in Sylacauga, AL in Talladega County. The confirmed meteorites from last Tuesday’s meteor, makes seven documented cases of recorded meteorite falls in Alabama. The other six recorded meteorite falls are listed below:

Danville – November 27, 1868
Frankfort – December 5, 1868
Felix – May 15, 1900
Leighton – January 12, 1907
Athens – July 11, 1933
Sylacauga – November 30, 1954

Historically Alabama has seemed like a hot spot for meteor landings. According to Dr. Bill Cooke the radar signature from the meteoritic rain from last Tuesday’s fireball was the strongest he had seen since a Texas fireball in 2009.  Though there have only been two meteorites found, there are likely many more on the ground, due to the strong radar return. Also Dr. Cooke states that 90% of meteorites are ordinary chondrites and are highly magnetic and typically gray to black. It is expected to take months to uncover the fragments of the meteor due to the likely quantity and the rough terrain that many are expected to be located in. Many more meteorites are likely to be found in the coming months.

– Jennifer Watson

Twitter: @JWatson_Wx

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