NASA Scientist Finds Michigan Meteorites

Weather radar is the key for Marc Fries
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2018 5:22 AM CST
NASA Scientist Finds Michigan Meteorites
There was something in the sky over Michigan.   (Getty Images)

If the United States Geological Service's reading of a magnitude 2.0 earthquake in Michigan on Tuesday night wasn't enough to convince you that a meteor did in fact streak through the sky there, let Marc Fries. The NASA scientist says he managed to track the meteorites (those are the pieces of rock that end up on the ground after a meteor enters Earth's atmosphere) down by using weather radar data, pinpointing them to the Lakeland and Hamburg areas in Livingston County. He explains to the Detroit Free Press that the radars are pointed downward, versus at the sky, but the rocks "are reflective and they will show up in radar images" as they fall past the radar. In fact, he has even published a study on that very idea: "Doppler weather radar as a meteorite recovery tool."

He provided this map that shows the radar reflections, which occurred between altitudes of 1.2 miles to 1.8 miles. As the title of his study suggests, the meteorites "can be collected" he says; because it wasn't a windy night, the meteorites should be on the ground beneath the reflection points. The AP talks to another NASA scientist, Bill Cooke with the Meteoroid Environment Office, who says the meteor measured six feet wide and had the power of 100 tons of TNT when it exploded in our atmosphere. He says it was traveling at about 28,000mph, but don't be impressed: "For a meteor this is about as slow as it gets." And on the smaller side: The AP points out the meteor that rocked Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 was 10 times as wide. A half-ton meteorite was recovered months later from a Russian lake. (Read more meteor stories.)

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