Science

Meteorites reported in Mississippi after loud overhead fireball

Meteorites appear in Mississippi after a fireball over the state on April 27.

Linda Welzenbach-Fries was among the people on earth who spotted rocks emanating from a small body in space when she accompanied her husband Mark Fries, a meteorite expert in the Astromaterials Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“Mark and I, along with a host of scientists from around the country, will be studying these rocks over the coming months,” Welzenbach-Fries, a science writer at Rice University in Texas, told Space.com via email. The husband and wife duo made the first two official finds of at least three confirmed in the region.

Related: Brilliant fireball over Mississippi causes loud bangs (and satellite photos)

The couple began their hunt along Highway 84, where radar data indicated that a lot of meteorites had fallen. While the short grass was filled with “road alligators” raised by cars, Welzenbach-Fries found a likely candidate, and her excitement overwhelmed her husband, who confirmed the find.

“There is no mistake about the meteorite when you finally spot it,” she said. Fries found his own space rock a couple of hours later, not far from the first one. Both finds were made on Saturday (April 30), and Welzenbach-Fries shared the photos with NASA, which is tracking the aftermath of the event.

NASA has asked all meteorite hunters in the region to ask permission from landowners before starting a search and not to send samples to the space agency for confirmation. (Typically, local natural history museums or scientists can help, depending on the region.)

The agency said the finds were confirmed “east of Natchez” but said it would not reveal any details about where they were found.

“Existing law says that any meteorites belong to the owner of the property on which they fell; out of respect for the privacy of those in the area, we will not disclose the whereabouts of these finds,” the NASA Meteor Watch group said in a Facebook post.

An image of the fireball on April 27, 2022, taken by the GLM instrument on GOES 16. (Image credit: NOAA)

Bill Cook, head of NASA’s Meteorological Office, said the bright flash was so bright it was “one of the best signals” recorded by the geostationary lightning mapper on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-17 meteorological satellite, which monitors the Western Hemisphere. . storms from space.

Unfortunately, the daylight fireball has generated relatively few eyewitness reports and no known video footage, making it difficult to track the outgoing body’s mass or orbit, Cook told Space.com.

“We currently do not have enough data to determine an accurate trajectory that is good enough to build an orbit, but this may change in the future,” he said. “Whenever you have a meteorite, a lot of people like to collect as much data as possible.”

Although scientists have not yet received samples, Cooke said the photographs show that it is an ordinary chondrite meteorite. Confirmation based on laboratory tests usually takes at least a few weeks.

According to Cook, this is the fifth confirmed meteorite impact in Mississippi, according to the Meteoretic Society’s database.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.

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