Parts of a flaming meteor seen flying April 27 over southwest Mississippi are being found in the Natchez area, NASA said.
The “bright fireball” was traveling at 35,000 mph when it exploded at 8:03 am with the “energy equivalent of 3 tons of TNT,” according to NASA Meteor Watch, the agency’s project that tracks fireball activity.
“Existing law states that any meteorites belong to the owner of the property on which they fell; out of respect for the privacy of those in the area, we will not disclose the locations of these finds,” NASA says.
A photo of one of the meteorite pieces was shared May 2 on Facebook, and it resembled a deep black chunk of charcoal with gray spots. It likely hit ground flying at “200-300 miles per hour,” experts say.
NASA says it is not playing a role in authenticating whether the discoveries are meteorites. The meteor is believed to have been an asteroid fragment “about a foot in diameter with a weight of 90 pounds,” NASA said.
It was first spotted 54 miles over the Mississippi River and disintegrated at a height of 34 miles, near the border of Adams and Franklin counties, NASA said. That is slightly east of what was originally thought to be the meteor’s track, which originally was thought to end over a swampy area of Louisiana.
The same update noted the number of witnesses has doubled, from 30 to more than 60 from Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, the agency says.
“The fragmentation … created shock waves that propagated to the ground, producing the booms and vibrations felt by individuals in the area,” according to NASA. “At its peak, the fireball was over ten times brighter than the full moon.”
‘Worth fair amount of money’
Verified meteorites “can be worth a fair amount of money,” depending on the type, NASA said.
“However, the majority are ‘ordinary chondrites’ which are fairly common,” NASA says.
And finding anything of value is likely harder than you think.
“The pieces from this object were way too small to leave a crater. Unlike what you see in the movies, meteorites are not ‘flaming rocks of doom’ that blast holes in the ground. In fact, you can pick one up right after it hits ground. So no smoking rocks in small craters.”
How to check rocks
NASA said it is declining to verify the meteorite discoveries. Instead, the agency is referring finders to a website for Washington University in St. Louis for help making a proper identification.
“We are not meteorite people, as our main focus is protecting spacecraft and astronauts from meteoroids. So we will be unable to identify any strange rocks you may find,” NASA said. “If confirmed, this will be the 5th recorded meteorite fall in Mississippi, the others occurring in 1854 (1857?), 1910, 1922 and 2012.”
The Sun Herald, based in Biloxi, covers the Mississippi Gulf Coast and is news partners with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Read more at www.sunherald.com.