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Meteorites recovered from Michigan meteor explosion

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Friday, January 19, 2018, 5:42 PM - Did you see the incredible meteor fireball that flashed across the sky over Windsor-Essex and southern Michigan on Tuesday night? Astronomers from Flint's Longway Planetarium have actually found fragments meteorites from this bright bolide explosion!

On the night of Tuesday, January 16, 2018, residents of southern Michigan and southwestern Ontario, as well as others from hundreds of kilometres around, were witness to a bright meteor exploding in the night sky. The American Meteor Society, which catalogues fireball events, took in around 400 reports from that night. Several videos, from dashboard cameras and outdoor web cameras, showed up online as well, showing off the spectacular event to the world. Estimates put the space rock at a little over a metre wide, and weighing roughly one tonne.

With the size of this asteroid, it was a near certainty that pieces of it would reach the ground as meteorites, so in the days after, the hunt was on.

Astronomers Todd Slisher and Buddy Stark, from nearby Longway Planetarium, in Flint, MI, headed out on Thursday, along with planetarium content developer Brian Wolff, and Tony Licata from Farmington Community Stargazers, to see if they could locate any meteorites from this fireball. After searching through the snow, south of Howell, MI, they came away with three samples, still reasonably fresh from space!

Astronomer Todd Slisher, Executive Director of the Longway Planetarium, holds up one of their prizes, which has been thoroughly wrapped up and sealed to limit the meteorite's exposure to the environment. Credit: Longway Planetarium

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Slisher and his colleagues were careful to take photographs of each meteorite, as they were found sticking out of the snow.

All three meteorite specimens, as they were found in the snow. Credit: Longway Planetarium

As we can see from the photographs, these meteorites - each about 2-3 cm wide - did not cause much of a disturbance in the snow. Two of them, at least, appear to have bounced, but they only left a small divot in the snow cover.

That may seem strange, given that the asteroid was travelling at around 45,000 km/h when it plunged into the atmosphere, but air resistance would have cancelled out nearly all of the asteroid's initial speed by the time the meteor flash went out, and the fragments from it would have simply been small rocks falling under the pull of gravity.

All three meteorites, next to a ruler for scale. Note the far right meteorite, which has a small area showing the texture of the rock, and revealing the characteristic fusion crust that nearly all meteorites have. Credit: Longway Planetarium

According to NBC25News.com, these meteorites are on display at Longway Planetarium starting Friday, January 19.

There are no doubt other meteorites in the area from this fall. If you believe you've found one, check out our guide to identifying meteorites, and take them in to Longway Planetarium to be sure!

For some tips on how to hunt for meteorites, professional meteorite hunter Geoff Notkin shared his secrets with us.

Sources: NBC25News | Longway Planetarium

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