By Jamie Folsom
Geologist Matt Morgan presented a slideshow before a packed house at the Little Thompson Observatory Friday. His show entitled, “Meteorites: An Intro to Cosmic Geology” gave fascinating highlights of some of the most notable meteorite falls, mainly focused on those here in Colorado.
There were photos of the famed 1992 “Peekskill Fireball” that went straight through the back end of a parked car, leaving an unexpectedly clean “bullet hole.” Even more amazing was the fact that it missed the fuel tank by mere inches, and left the car in drivable condition.
Other bizarre meteorite landings left a frightened, but unharmed cat in garage, and a church service interrupted. In July 1924, the 80- to 90-pound Johnstown Meteorite reportedly damaged the front steps of a church building in front of 200 witnesses who were attending a daytime funeral. And like many meteorites, the Berthoud Meteorite of October 2004 landed on farming acreage, just missing a family of three.
Morgan said researchers believe the Berthoud Meteorite came from Vesta — one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter.
“Meteorites are basically just rocks from space,” Morgan said, adding that some of the rock itself, which is a dull white in space, is among the oldest substances in our solar system, dating up to 4-and-a-half billion years ago.
When asked about how the age of meteorites is determined, Morgan said carbon dating, the most well-known method of dating materials, is only accurate to 20,000 years, and that uranium dating (lead decay) is the method used for older objects that date in the billions of years.
Morgan noted there have been 86 meteorites found in Colorado, making it the fourth highest in the country. But of those 86, only five have actually been seen falling, and most of those were found by farmers, not surprisingly. Many in the audience were curious about they could find meteorites.
Besides holding and comparing samples from Morgan’s meteorite collection, there were questions about the best locations and methods for meteorite hunting, and what to do if you do find one. Besides farms, Morgan suggests dry lake beds, sand dunes and areas where meteorites have previously been found.
And, he emphasized, “You might think, oh they’re all gone, but people still find them in those places.”
<p>Colorado geologist and meteorite enthusiast Matt Morgan</p>