Friday, May 4, 2012

Reason #190: Chondrite Zeppelin

On Sunday, April 22, what is being considered the most significant meteorite impact since the 60's occurred near the small town of Lotus, California. The object is believed to have been about the size of a minivan before exploding in the atmosphere and scattering its bits and pieces all over the area.

In an attempt to better locate the remains, scientists from NASA and SETI yesterday descended on the area in Eureka, the only zeppelin in North America (not to be confused with blimps, of which there are many). Eureka is outfitted with, and I'm just going to quote this, "a gyrostabilized, high-resolution video camera that can pick out a golf ball in the dirt from 1,500 feet", which is good, because the biggest piece that article mentions having been found thus far is only about five centimeters long.

They're also going to have to contend with local treasure hunters, because pieces are already going for a thousand bucks per gram on the collector's market. NASA is especially interested because the fragments are believed to be a substance called carbonaceous chondrite, the first solid material to have formed after the Big Bang. The chondrite is such a wealth of information that scientists are still studying the samples they retrieved from the aforementioned 1969 impact, more than forty years later.

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