Astro Bob blog: With the good earth all aroundNotes from my meteorite hunt at ground zero
By: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
With the good Earth all around
"With the good Earth all around"
That's what the welcome sign reads as you enter the town of Livingston, Wisconsin, one of the places meteorites have been found from the April 14 fireball. I couldn't have agreed more as I stared at acres of soft, cloddy dirt, corn stubble and maroon-colored corn cobs strewn about the farmer's field we searched yesterday. "They're all around us," said hunter Dave Gheesling of Georgia, referring to the space rocks that must surely be nearby. He spoke with conviction and helped buoy my hopes of finding a piece if I remained persistent. Jack Schraeder from Arizona spoke from deep experience: "Don't worry, this is just the beginning. There are thousands of meteorites out here."
Dave Gheesling takes his daughter Maddie for a spin while searching a corn field for meteorites near Montfort, Wisconsin Wednesday. Photo: Bob King
I ran into these two fellows and a half dozen others near the Iowa-Grant High School where students found two meteorites earlier Wednesday on the school grounds. I joined Gheesling and his spirited 7-year-old daughter Maddie for a walk through the corn stubble for about two hours. We were looking for rounded rocks with fresh black crust that snap to a magnet -- the elusive meteorites. Every so often I'd walk on something hard and think maybe this was it, but it was just another corn cob or one of the numerous sandstone or limestone rocks scattered about the fields poking fun at me. Chunks of dirt, especially those dampened by a short afternoon rainfall, looked surprisingly like meteorites until you reached down to pick it up and crumbled it between your fingers.
When Dave left, I was on my own and talked a lot to the ground trying to conjure up a meteorite by sheer force of logic and will. I mean why shouldn't there be one here? This patch of earth was just as likely to hold celestial treasure as one five miles away. The ground unfortunately didn't give an inch. Not today at least. After walking several miles in pleasant sunshine -- there had even been a rainbow earlier -- I called it quits for the day and joined two other hunters for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in nearby Mineral Point. Let me just say the dumplings were excellent.
I've always read about hunting for meteorites but this was my first attempt. Even if I don't find one, I wanted to experience the steady, slow pace of the hunt and dine on the anticipation of finding a rocky visitor from outer space nestled in the rolling farmlands of southern Wisconsin. I could come face to face with a five-pounder. Who knows? Space stones or not, the camaraderie and good cheer among this group of hunters will make for another good day today.
Greg Hupe, a meteorite hunter from Florida, was led to his Wisconsin meteorite find by the play of light in a patch of grass and clover near the end of day. He explained how the light was just right, how it drew him to the stone.
Today we'll all get an early start in the continental breakfast room at the motel and discuss the best places to hunt based on where others have found meteorites and where we have permission.
The farm country landscape is a new one for someone used to living in close company with poplars and pines. Wide, wide and flat. I can see my car from miles away; it has real stature in this landscape that goes on and on to the horizon. There's so much sky it makes you wish you had wings.
(Blogging from my meteorite hunting roadtrip near Livingston, Wisc. I apologize for the lack of photos -- I ran out of the house without the card reader for my main camera! I took only a couple with another camera. I'll have the rest up on tomorrow's blog.)
An erupting prominence observed by SDO on March 30, 2010. Hi-res image. Credit: SDO/AIA
Before signing off, I have to share these two just-released photos taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). They show incredible detail on the sun's surface and in its prominences, those large, fiery loops of incandescent hydrogen gas arcing above the sun's surface. For more on the new sun-spying satellite as well as some breathtaking movies, please see THIS LINK.
A full-disk multiwavelength extreme ultraviolet image of the sun taken by SDO on March 30, 2010. False colors trace different gas temperatures. Reds are relatively cool (about 110,000 degrees F); blues and greens are hotter greater than 1.8 million degrees) Hi res version. Credit: SDO/AIA