Scientists at NASA Ames are accustomed to going into space to get material that is out of this world. But this week the universe came to them when a meteorite disintegrated over Northern California, giving them the gift of a galaxy. NBC Bay Area's George Kiriyama reports from NASA Ames at Moffett Field.
John T. Wasson, a longtime professor at UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, tells The Associated Press at least two tiny meteorites weighing about 10 grams each were found Wednesday near the towns of Coloma and Lotus, northeast of Sacramento.
The flaming meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere with a loud boom about 8 a.m. Sunday. It was seen from Sacramento to Las Vegas and parts of northern Nevada.
NASA scientists say it probably was about the size of a minivan and exploded with the force equal to one-third of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
Both NASA and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute are asking for the public's help finding photos and video of the incident, the NASA Ames Research Center said.
Through more photos and videos of the meteor, NASA and SETI researchers hope to analyze the trajectory of the meteor as it fell, lending insight into its orbit in space and where fragments of it may have landed on Earth.
"We are very interested in this rare find," said Greg Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute. "With the public¹s help, this could lead to a better understanding of these fascinating objects."
Astronomer Peter Jenniskens with NASA Ames and the SETI Institute also said he found a four-gram fragment of the meteor in a parking lot in Lotus, Calif. on the American River.
"This appears to be a rare type of primitive meteorite rich in organic compounds," Jenniskens said.
Anyone who took photos or video of the meteor has been asked to contact Jenniskens at firstname.lastname@example.org. A meteor expert at UCLA says tiny meteorites found in Northern California likely were part of the giant fireball that exploded in daylight over the weekend.
Bay City News and AP