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. Rick

    How much money is it worth?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • usarmyoverlord

      That my friend... is the million dollar question. 😉

      April 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • RealGunOwner

      Those pieces are propably worth a couple hundred dollars. If not a $1,000. Watch the Medorite Men show on the Science Channel. Those guys travel all over the world looking for metorites.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • LaLa

      That would depend on the quality & size of the rock found.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Woop Woop

      exactly. how was that not mentioned?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ProperVillain

    Don't these people watch science fiction movies? They will find the meteor then be infected with some alien disease....

    April 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. HughMungus

    I'm sort of nervous knowing something the size of a minivan can sneak-up on us and explode over our heads. How big are ICBMs?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      a lot bigger then a mini van >.>

      April 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • LaLa

      The diff is that ICBMs are fired from the ground & we can see them go up & then down with our various forms of spy gadgetry. This was debris from a comet tail & thus originated in outer space. It's entirely possible our space-watchers knew it was coming, but just couldn't predict where it would enter the atmosphere.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michelle

    "And now that matter from the early universe is scattered over the California landscape." Is this suppose to be a sentence?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Orso

      Give him a break, the economy is bad, he couldn't afford to buy punctuation marks. 🙂

      April 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erik Weathers

      Yes, it is a valid sentence. The word "matter" is a noun in that sentence.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ded Nugent

      Yes, it not only is "suppose" to be a sentence, it is a sentence. Are you supposed to be reading at an adult level?

      April 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve harnack

      Yes it is and it makes perfect sense. What's the matter with you?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Liz in Seattle

    How did they identify those fragments as pieces of a meteorite and not just regular old rocks? Does anybody know?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • kmac

      they a generally magnetic and the make-up is reflected in the color. They have a distintive look kinda like moltin metal.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mikeyboy

    Let me get this in because it seems to get in every thread:


    April 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. citizen

    Funny you mentioned obama, he is on the ground in calif. looking for the bucks to buy the white house once again. He is
    just about to the one billion mark. He has only one draw back ' chesse burgers. They have inflatted their price to about
    500 mil for a double sizer. Hope he doesn't have the treasury print more dollars. That would cause another 10% in-
    flation. Oh--it's all part of his plan for us all. He wants all of the burgers for himself.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      You are either delightfully sarcastic or wondrously mad. Either way, well played.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • elenore

      Take the venom out of your brain.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Diest

    It was just Gingrich's minivan returning from his "lunar colony" visit.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Thane Kerner

    Damn. Can't we get away from the advertisements on these vids?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Thane Kerner

    PS–if you find one, try to break off a bit of it and keep it. This will allow you or your kids to find out later what is really in it in case there is something and the powers want to keep that quiet.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GD

    slamming in to the ground at unthinkable speeds didn't break it, but running over it with a vehicle did?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • stan

      it didnt slam into the ground at incredible speeds. air resistance eats away at the cosmic velocity and by the time it hits the ground it's moving at terminal velocity- for most stone meteorites thats in the ballpark of maybe 200 mph

      April 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. palintwit

    That was no mini-van. That was the trailer Sarah Palin grew up in.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. B-rock

    It's a "treasure trove", "gold", no it's a "giant Easter egg"!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rob M

    This reminds me of a part of 'Creepshow' the movie. Stephen King actually starred in the role of a slow rural farmer who finds a meteor and has delusions of fame and money, It does not end well.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    It's all easter egg hunting and fun until one of those hunks decides to reactivate after billions of years and take over your body.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
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