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Sunday, 22 February 2009 19:53

Update to mysterious fireball over Texas

The fireball that streaked across central Texas (U.S.A.) on February 15, 2009, has been identified. Two University of North Texas astronomers say they found pieces of the meteorite the size of "large pecans" in a pasture south of Dallas.

According to Ron DiLulio, one of the U.S. astronomers, the meteoritic pieces they discovered were described as: “It's black like charcoal. Underneath this crust the color of the rock is concrete like gray.” [ABC News/Associated Press: "Texas Astronomers Say They Found Remains of Meteor."]

Meteoroids are found in outer space (outside of Earth) within our Solar System, meteors are found flying through Earth's atmosphere, and meteorites are discovered lying on the surface of Earth--all names for the same object, but just in different locations in our Solar System.

DiLulio added, "The pieces that we found have beautiful ablation crust," which describes how the meteors form a crust by the extreme temperatures of entering the Earth’s atmosphere.” [Scientific American: Texas Meteorite hunters turn up possible remnants of Sunday’s fireball”]

Dr. DiLulio, the director of the planetarium and astronomy laboratory program at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, and Preston Starr, the manager of the UNT observatory, stated that the two space-faring pieces were found initially by a local farmer.

According to the Dallas Morning News story “UNT astronomy workers say they found 2 samples of meteor,” the men “...wound their way to West [a town in central Texas] and stopped at the Czech Bakery for a snack. A farmer, who noticed their official NASA-UNT outfits, approached them and asked what they were doing.”

Images of the pecan-sized pieces of broken off meteorites are found on the Dallas Morning News website.

A video of the falling meteor is also found within this story.

Page two continues the story.

The town of West, Texas is about seventy miles south of Dallas and about twenty miles north of Waco, Texas, on Interstate-35 (I-35).

DiLulio and Starr were then directed southeast of the town of West, where they spotted the first piece in a pasture while walking down a gravel road.

On Thursday, February 19, 2009, the day of their discovery, the men described the size of the two pieces as the “size of large pecans.” [ABC/AP]

The men were reported to have placed the pieces into two ZipLoc bags (in an air-tight environment) so they could be further analyzed at the University of North Texas.

Additional information about the fireball seen across central Texas, which was initially thought to have been from a collision between two communications satellites, is found on the two iTWire stories: “Space highway crowded: Two major satellites collide” (Feb. 14, 2009) and
Fiery debris streaks across Texas not from satellite collision” (Feb. 17, 2009).

The ABC/AP article, written by Regina L. Burns, AP writer, also said, "The pair said they were not alone in the search and ran into others including 'a commercial meteorite hunter and we wanted to get there so we could have it first for science,' DiLulio said."

Burns commented on the planning phase of the meteorite hunt by DiLulio and Starr. DiLulio reported, "We did a lot of pre-planning. We looked at the angles of what they saw in the sky and we were able to map it all out. We put a plan together and we drove around small country roads. Texas has lots of small farm to market roads."

The article went on to say, "DiLulio said he thinks there are larger pieces still to be found."

He commented, "We feel that there are probably several hundred pieces. What happens when these things fall — they may break apart. We want to find these early and study the primitive material before our atmosphere affects them."

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