Meteor caught on video found weeks later in Florida

A group of meteorite hunters found six pieces of galactic rock they believe came from a fireball that streaked across the sky above North Florida last month.

Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, said several people reported the Jan. 24 fireball that fell to Earth at about 10:30 a.m.

This dashboard camera video of the fireball was captured by the Williams family and provided by Hankey. (Look near the center left of the video.)

The meteorite find is only the sixth time in records of the AMS that meteorites have been recovered in Florida.

“Florida is so wet and there is so much growth that it’s hard to find them,” Hankey said. “They get lost within days of being dropped.”

With basic information from fireball spotters, a group of scientists and enthusiasts were able to estimate a landing area using archived Doppler radar images.

After searching for three weeks, the small pieces of rock were discovered near the Osceola National Forest west of Jacksonville. 

Four Osceola Meteorites. Photo courtesy Mike Hankey

“While the radar returns looked rich, the terrain and prospects for making a find were bleak,” Hankey wrote in a blog about the search. “The meteorites fell over swamp land and pine forests.”

Meteorite hunters Larry Atkins and Mike Hankey excited about their find. Photo courtesy Mike Hankey

Hankey said the meteor that created the six rocks searchers recovered was likely the size of a minivan when it hit Earth’s atmosphere, where it exploded into thousands of pieces.

A sample of the find was sent to researcher Alan Rubin at the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences to determine what it’s made of. That report is expected this week.

Still, Hankey said searchers used a loupe to examine the rocks before determining they came from the meteor and that it was fairly clear they weren’t native to the otherwise sandy terrain.

“They have a fusion crust that has a shiny black skin that forms,” Hankey said. “They have flow lines and you can tell where material has melted and frozen again.”

“These are just random asteroids, or pieces of asteroids, and there is no rhyme nor reason to them,” Hankey said. “They happen all the time, but are sporadic.”

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