Rare Meteorite Caused California Fireball, Sonic Boom

A rare meteorite is to blame for a recent fireball seen over California and Nevada. The fireball was seen shooting across the sky this weekend, causing a sonic boom that rattled houses and woke residents from their peaceful Sunday morning sleep.

Robert Ward, an avid meteorite hunter/collector, discovered the first piece of the giant space rock on Tuesday, and told the Associated Press that, “It was just, needless to say, a thrilling moment.”

Ward, who has been collecting meteorites for over 20 years, discovered two meteorite pieces in the Sierra foothills, along the path of the rock, whose path could be seen from Sacramento, California, to Las Vegas.

Ward, who also goes by “AstroBob” explains that this meteorite in particular is special. It is called “CM” (carbonaceous chondrite), and is one of the oldest substances in the known universe, dating back 4 to 5 billion years. Ward gushed that:

“It is one of the oldest things known to man and one of the rarest types of meteorites there is. It contains amino acids and organic compounds that are extremely important to science.”

The two rocks that Bob Ward discovered are suspected to be small parts of a meteorite estimated to weigh 154,300 pounds, and be about the size of a mini-van when it initially entered the atmosphere.

Bill Cooke, a specialist in meteors at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Hjuntsville, Alabama, believes that the rock released a massive amount of energy on entering the atmosphere, equivalent to a 5-kiloton explosion (for reference, the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons).

Don Yeomans, who works at NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, said that a meteorite of this magnitude only hits Earth’s atmosphere about once a year, and that, “most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area.” He went on to say that:

“Getting to see one is something special. Most meteors you see in the night’s sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand, and their trail lasts all of a second or two.”

John T. Wasson, a longtime professor and expert in meteorites at UCLA’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, expects that more pieces of the meteor will be found, as many scientists and meteorite collectors have gathered to search the area near Coloma, California, where Ward found the first two. He stated that:

“I’m sure more will be found, I’m hoping, including some fairly big pieces. The fact that two pieces already have been found means one knows where to look.”

Check out more information about the California meteor, and Bob Ward’s discovery here: