CHICAGO (WBBM Newsradio) — One of the meteorites that was found in Michigan after a fireball lit up the sky Tuesday night has been shipped to the Field Museum for scientists to analyze.
Philip Heck, the Field Museum’s Pritzker Associate Curator for Meteorites and Polar studies, said he’s really excited to get his hands on the rock.
“I can’t wait to get my hands on that piece, and see what it is, and from where it came in our solar system,” he said. “We are very excited to get a piece of this meteorite, and one of the first things we’ll do is take a little chip off, polish it, and look at it with a special microscope. Based on the types of minerals that are in this meteorite, and on the chemistry of these minerals, we can classify it. We can find out what type of rock it is, and hopefully also from where it came.”
Heck said scientists have studied approximately 60,000 found on Earth. The rocks reveal details about the evolution of the Solar System.
“There is a market out there where people buy and sell meteorites. It has become pretty lucrative, but for science, these are invaluable. They have huge value. It’s essentially like getting a sample from space for almost for free, compared to the cost for a space mission,” he said.
Professional meteorite hunters used Doppler radar and wind speed to determine where they likely would find the rocks from the meteor that entered the atmosphere Tuesday night over Detroit, lighting up the sky as far away as Missouri and Pennsylvania.
“One of my colleagues, Marc Fries, from NASA Johnson Space Center, he specializes in that, and he can actually produce the strewn field map. This is the area where the meteorites lay on the ground, based on the weather radar. He also takes into account the wind that blows those meteorites after the weather radar records their echo,” Heck said.
In addition to analyzing the meteorite found this week, a team from the Field Museum will search the bottom of Lake Michigan this spring in hopes of finding meteorites from an event that occurred last February.