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. Getsum Perspective

    I think I saw this on Creepshow... think I'll pass on hunting down the meteorite.

    April 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. KenC

    I will only be interested if a big meteor hits California, specifically LOS ANGELES. That I'd LOVE to read about!

    April 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimbo

      So you want to read about millions dying, including children? You must be a real nice guy.

      April 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimbo

      So you want to read about millions dying, including children? You must be a real nice guy.

      April 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ghost of Reagan

      Is that because a loser like you couldn't make it in the big city and you see that as your revenge?

      April 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • snowdogg

      Would be doubly exciting if you were in L.A. at the time!

      April 26, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeMazz

      Yeah because you probably live in really desirable metropolis yourself

      April 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • socalgina

      Why the hostility towards Angelinos?

      April 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. palintwit

    Everbody knows that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the baby jesus planted all those fossils and meteorites just to mess with everyone's head. That baby jesus is quite the prankster.

    April 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • snowdogg

      Refer to "The Life of Brian" for the real story.

      April 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeMazz

      Good one bro

      April 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • greg

      the baby jesus and his brother satan according to mormonism...................interesting take.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Menos

      What an ignorant troll. Just because there are a small percentage of fundamentalists who take such an extreme and shallow view of the world (6000 year old universe), that doesn't mean that their beliefs represent main stream Christian thinking. For example, the largest Christian denomination in the word has formally acknowledged evolution and the big bang (along with the billions of years associated with their unfolding) several decades ago. If anybody is living under a rock, it's you - as your complete ignorance of modern / main stream theology betrays.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dunlar

    Haven't they seen Creepshow?

    April 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cleat

    see you down at arizona bay my friend...

    April 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lisa

    Chris, do you actually live in California? There's an ice cream shop in my town that had trouble getting a business permit because California is so strict. But Larry was just making a joke. Thank you for the laugh Larry!

    April 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sadfj2kljkls

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

    No, carbon dating doesn't apply. It only works for organic matter on earth, and only relatively young organic matter.

    Its a mesure of the ratio of c-14 to c-16 and works by comparing an old sample to a new sample. c-16 the normal stable form of carbon, c-14 is radioactive and constantly decays. As something ages the ratio of c-14 to c-16 decreases, unless the c-14 is replenished. Anything that is alive and breathing is constantly taking in new c-14 to replace the stuff that decays; and so the ratio remains constant until it dies.Soon as something dies it stops doing this and then the ratio of c14 to c-16 decreases from then on.

    You cant carbon dating on a meteorite because it was never alive on earth. However, you can use plenty of other radioisotopes to date it, or other methods.

    April 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dgatwood

    Ooh. I know what was inside it. The Blob (or some other random movie monster). :-D

    April 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. wondering

    Seems to me something as large as a minivan would have been tracked by someone. I mean dang some satellites
    are that size. They didn't see this thing comming?

    April 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • XxMacleodxX

      moving at 40,000mph no it could not.....and they do not look for ones that size as they are not a big deal....hundreds of tons of meteorites are deposited on the Earth every year ....if you find one shop around ..they go for around $100 a pound depending on how they look

      April 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. HoldOnASecond

    Also, the "BLOB" – original version.

    April 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Faxon

    Metorites are treasure. The prices commanded for them can sometimes be, (sorry), astronomical. I have three acres of land a few miles from Coloma. Perhaps I should head up there.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jimdog33

    Did a young caucasian boy walk out of the crater? If so, don't take him back to your farm. Bad things will follow...

    April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Michael

    Glad it did explode insted of remaining inta ct and landing in a remote area as now it can be appreciated by many for free and might retutrn a profit to its finders.
    Otherwise if intact and landed on private property quite a bundle to owner alone.
    If impact on FED lands would be claimed as a scientific findand join the tons of other scientific finds that are still awaiting some scientific group wanting a grant to study.
    There are probably more tons of study papers laying around unread, even by those who claim to be studying, than the last 10,999 years of metiorites that hit earth combined!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bad Editing!

    "A minivan-sized meteor blew up over northern California on Sunday morning, and now everyone from NASA scientists to schoolkids is looking for fragments" is looking for fragments?

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

    There's particles in that there 'em meteorite!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Steve Ricard

    I guess those two guys who do the "Meteorite Men" show have done a great job educating their viewers regarding the cash value of meteorites. LOL theres gold in them thar hills!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
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