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. Maybe_Me

    That's pretty cool, I wish I was out there to go hunting for some of them. It would be kind of neat to be able to hold a piece of mineral older than our solar system.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Infoman

    I suppose we should be honored or thankful to have front row seats to 2012. to say that we were there when the change occured, and what we witnessed leading up to the event. A nice warm winter was a "pleasant" event, the long hot summer wont be, but... the number of Meteor strikes will scare many, the catastrophic tornado and hurrican season will not be pleasureable., but for many it will be exciting (hey is G. Carlin still around?)

    April 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • RogerVictor


      April 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • P. Rob

      Love the website

      videos are great, but pics are grainy,keep up the good work

      April 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • markishere

      psst, nothing will happen.

      April 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • sauljohn 27

      Most everyone agrees nothing will happen but lets just imagine something did happen. All those who
      said nothing would happen would be running around like panicked little rabbits! That would be a sight to see! Just saying . . .

      April 27, 2012 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. sarllie

    What a find. I found pieces of the meteorite and have them for sale on eBay.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • nellie

      Sarllie .. you are an idiot for selling something of great scientific importance .

      April 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Why do think ppl are looking for it or pieces of it? To make some money regardless of the find.

      April 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JJ

    There's particles inside this meteorite that predate our sun? Of course they are! The vast majority of heavy elements predate our Sun, including those in our own bodies!

    April 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • stan

      the vast majority? ALL of them pre-date our sun. but you can, I assume, grasp the significance of pre-solar * particles* – actual tangible articles you could view under a microscope – and atoms.

      One remains unchanged since it's formation, the other not.

      April 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Idaknow

    Idaknow why my posts are not being posted?

    April 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mikstov33

    Brings to mind the concept of asteroid mining. If private industry could get a technological jump on it, it would definitly be the next big thing. Another gold rush of sorts, only in space. Imagine if we found another mineral or metal that would replace all of the dirty carbon based power sources we have here on Earth?Or liquid for that matter.Hmmmmm..............

    April 26, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wow

    so much money is up in space and a company is trying to get to it now.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sharp

    From the description, A Carbonaceous Chondrite. Very interesting scientifically for the reasons in the article. The last fall of this kind was in Allende Chile in the early Sixtys. Lots of fragments of that one in collections. The most beautiful are Pallasites; Part metal & part Olivine semi-precious gemstone. I expect NASA wants the pieces for free; They are worth more than Gold on a weight basis to any serious collector.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sharp

    Look for broken pieces of grey stone with a possible crust of brown or black. Round small spherical structures thru a hand lens (Chondrules).

    April 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. wow

    Man wish I was in CA and found a big chunk of it..

    April 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. esc pod7

    I live in Fremont, Ca and at about 2am Sunday saw two flashes out of the northeast, in the area of the lyra system. These sighting confirms the astrologers suggestion where to look out for the showers. Used the astronomy app

    April 27, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. (Butch) Ronald Dennis Long

    Wouldn't be something if those meteorite searchers found a real Minivanburied buried half way in a crator, in the ground!!!!!!!!!

    April 27, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. NorMan

    A meteorite the size of a minivan! Then why are some people laughing at James Cameron's asteroid mining? C'mon skeptics wake up!!!

    April 27, 2012 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. RushLimbaugh

    Yes, it is true that I am on a quest to find the meteorite that crashed in that liberal cesspool California. After I stopped at a legal and 100% legit back doctor and on-site pharmacy I was on my way to find that big flaming mass.

    April 27, 2012 at 5:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. Chut Pata

    Why is Rush Limbaugh on to find fragments of California meteor? He might be thinking it is an Obama conspiracy.

    April 27, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
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