April 26th, 2012
07:19 AM ET

Rush on to find fragments of California meteor

There's a new rush on in California's gold rush country. This time, they're prospecting for meteorites.

A minivan-sized meteor blew up over northern California on Sunday morning, and now everyone from NASA scientists to schoolkids is looking for fragments of the fireball  called meteorites once they hit the ground  in the Sierra Nevada towns of Coloma and Lotus.

“People used to pull the gold out of the ground. Now, things fall out of the sky,” NASA research astrophysicist Scott Sandford told CNN affiliate KTXL in Sacramento. “Lucky place, I guess.”

The site where the first meteorites were found Wednesday is just a mile from where gold was first found at Sutter's Mill in Coloma in 1848, CNN affiliate KXTV reported.

Meteorite hunter Robert Ward rushed from his home in Prescott, Arizona, to northern California after hearing of the explosion on Sunday and found fragments in a park. He told CNN affiliate KOVR that these fragments are the first of their kind to fall to Earth since the 1960s.

And they are of extreme importance to scientists, he said.

"There's particles inside this meteorite that predate our sun," Ward said.

"It contains complex amino acids. It contains organic molecules. This thing is just a treasure trove of data for scientists," Ward told KXTV.

NASA scientist Peter Jenniskens found fragments in the park's parking lot, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report. The fragment had been split into smaller pieces after it was run over by a vehicle, he told the Chronicle.

"We need to find more fragments so we can begin to understand how it broke apart and what was inside it," the Chronicle quoted Jenniskens as saying.

"A primitive type of meteorite can tell us an awful lot about the early stages of our solar system, so it is scientific gold in that respect," Sandford told KXTV.

And now that matter from the early universe is scattered over the California landscape.

Local elementary school students Alvin Wolf and Dustin Bunge were among those combing Henningsen Lotus Park on Wednesday.

"We'd probably sell it. Keep it in a bag and if NASA wanted to do stuff on it," they told KXTV.

NASA scientists are organizing a meteorite search for Saturday in Henningsen Lotus Park, KXTL reports.

In the meantime, Ward and others will keep searching.

"There's pieces out there in people's backyards," Ward said. "They just have to get out there and find them."

"It's like a giant easter egg hunt for adults," Randy Freeman of Garden Valley, California, told KXTV.

Meteor was size of a minivan

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Filed under: California • Space • U.S.
soundoff (237 Responses)
  1. PantyRaid

    I never knew Pierce Brosnan was also a meteorite hunter...

    April 26, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. horse_biscuits!

    Find it and forge it into a magic sword. We will need it for the coming zombie apocalypse. ;-)

    April 26, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • PantyRaid

      Skyrim

      April 26, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Ned Stark

      Winter is coming!

      April 26, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • cigarman

      Magic sword is not a bad idea, that will go right along with the Magic Underwear from the planet Kolub.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • markishere

      That would be at least a +5 sword. Potential sonic damage.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. big banjo

    this is the prelude to Godzilla appearing.......know it, believe it.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. j

    everyone knows the universe is only 6000 yrs old. duh

    April 26, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Ned Stark

      If a meterorite falls on a fundie in the middle of the woods and nobody sentient is around, does it make a sound?

      April 26, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Smedley

      I think J was being sarcastic. I don't think you were.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. S4LK1N

    i bet there is a homeless man in hollywood that is yelling SEE! I TOLD YOU THE WORLD WOULD END BY FIRE! YOU WILL ALL BE JUDGED!

    April 26, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tinko

    How do you date this thing? Carbon dating likely does not apply here!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Ned Stark

      Turn it over and look at the copyright.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • cigarman

      Find the product label, and just scan it.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • melvinslizard

      Why wouldn't Carbon Dating apply? Carbon is one of the primary components of most meteorites, isn't it?

      April 26, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve L.

      Uranium dating, half life is much longer and that is an understatement!

      April 26, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ned Stark

    This means that dragons have risen anew!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. cigarman

    Thars GOLD in them thar Meteorites.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • FYI yankee boy

      The original statement (in proper english) was something like: "There's gold thar in them hills". We never say "them thar"... that thar is a igranunt myth...

      April 26, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Michael

    They are worth money.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Julie

    Come now, Ned, don't lose your head.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. Derek

    Henny Penny was right!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bible-1963

    Little hint Robert, the planets are the same age as the sun. It would do you good to get into THE BOOK rather than other's books.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. Name*Dr. Kno

    Meteorite is like a box of chocolate.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. C

    "And they are of extreme importance to scientists, he said.

    "There's particles inside this meteorite that predate our sun," Ward said.

    "It contains complex amino acids. It contains organic molecules. This thing is just a treasure trove of data for scientists," Ward told KXTV."

    You just gave some loser with no life and a VW Microbus credibility. He's trying to win the lotto by finding a space rock.

    Without having found the meteorite, how do we report this claim as accurate? You can't know, and you should be skeptical of his claims that the mysteries of the universe will be unveiled with his unscientific digging in the desert.

    This is why CNN should NEVER report science articles. Failed writers who pretend to be journalists shouldn't write out of their areas of knowledge.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bobby

    "Local elementary school students Alvin Wolf and Dustin Bunge were among those combing Henningsen Lotus Park on Wednesday.

    'We'd probably sell it....'"

    I'll bet your parents are proud.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
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