NASA researchers walk to the zeppelin, Eureka, at McClellan Air Park in Sacramento, Calif., that will be used to search for pieces of a meteorite Thursday, May 3, 2012. The researchers from NASA and the SETI Institute are hoping to spot sites where large fragments landed after a meteor exploded in the atmosphere over the Sierra Nevada in late April. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Calif. (AP)—A group of scientists took to the skies in a slow-moving
airship Thursday in search of meteorites that rained over California’s
gold country last month.
the latest hunt for extraterrestrial fragments from the April 22
explosion that was witnessed over a swath of Northern California and
hunters have swarmed the Sierra Nevada foothills over the past two
weeks, snatching up pieces of meteorites. Most of the recovered space
rocks have been tiny, with the largest weighing in at 19 grams, or the
weight of one AA battery.
from NASA and the nonprofit SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.,
were on the lookout for larger fragments. After a brief weather delay,
they took off from a Sacramento airfield aboard an airship outfitted
with sensors and cameras.
the air, scientists scoured the terrain for places where sizable
meteorites might have scattered. The survey took them over the area
where James W. Marshall first discovered gold in California in 1848.
Once they pinpoint possible impact sites, they plan to follow up with a
small pieces have been found. There has to be big pieces out there,”
SETI Institute meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens said before the trip.
“We’re just hoping to collect more meteorites for research.”
after the approximately 154,300-lb meteor plunged through Earth’s
atmosphere with a loud sonic boom that was heard from Sacramento to Las
Vegas, Jenniskens organized a team and found a 4-g meteorite in the
parking lot of a park.
estimated the minivan-sized meteor released energy equal to one-third
the explosive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World
War II. An event this size occurs once a year usually over unpopulated
inspection of rock fragments indicates this type of meteorite is among
the oldest, dating to the solar system’s birth 4 billion to 5 billion
The Associated Press