Mike's Astro Photos
Aug.09 2009

Aug 8th 2009 Field Report – Bird In Hand

by , under Mason Dixon Meteor

Kaufmans Fruit Market - Meteorite Search Landmark

Kaufmans Fruit Market - Meteorite Search Landmark

Today was the first day I searched the area suggested by Rob Matson and Marc Fries. I drove up to Bird in Hand PA in the morning with my neighbor Mark Dodson. We met up with John Divelbiss, a fellow meteorite hunter from Redding PA who has been scoping out the area for a few days already. The target area is based on a 3D model of the meteor flight path that was created by Rob Matson and a strewn field map developed by Marc Fries. This is the first area suggested that takes into consideration data from all recorded evidence: the Pittsburgh video, the Safe Harbor video, the York Water video and my picture. Marc’s map was based on Rob’s initial data plus calculations for the initial velocity, drag, wind as well as meteorite type, size and weight.

Farms off N Harvest Road

Farms off N Harvest Road

My primary objective was to make contact with as many land owners as possible. I prepared an information packet and made several copies. The map I am currently working with is pretty much a square area bordered by 4 main roads with 3-4 cross streets (the cross streets are really gravel roads). I made it to about 10-12 different properties (about 1/4 of the area) and talked to land owners at all of them. All of the people I talked to were Amish farmers. None of them had heard about the meteor. All of them were very interested in the story, excited that they might have meteorite rocks on their land and they were very agreeable to the idea of people searching the land once harvest was underway. All of the farmers said to check back with them in 2-3 weeks. The harvest goes in stages so different areas of land would open up at different times. Depending on the crop there is about a 2 week window after the harvest that is ideal for searching. After this period they till and fertilize the land which makes meteorite recovery much more difficult.

Peach Orchard Below 10km Alititude Point

Peach Orchard Below 10km Alititude Point

I gave an information packet to all of the farmers I met today. This packet included:
- a letter to land owners requesting permission to search their land
- some meteorite informational articles I wrote up
- 2 news paper articles about the meteor

As I walked from farm to farm I looked every where I could for meteorites but didn’t find anything. While I was talking to the land owners, Mark and John walked the roads checking the ditches and grass by the side of the road. They knocked on a few different doors. A few people wouldn’t come to the door or talk to them, but they did talk to a few others that were very interested. One farmer let them search an alfalfa field that had just been cut. They didn’t find anything but they covered a lot of ground and got the word out with at least 10 different people in the community.

It wasn't a meteor...

It wasn't a meteor...

In the afternoon we all went to an orchard that John had spotted a few days before and had been searching. The orchard was more or less open to the public and an easy and relaxing search. Most of the area under the trees was just dirt with no vegetation or grass. In between the tree rows was relatively low grass. It was a peach orchard and the rotting peaches on the ground turn black and really look like meteorites from a few feet away. I can’t tell you how many black rotten peaches I stepped on today. I did find one meteor-wrong that was a new one for me. This rock had a crust around it that looked like a fusion crust, but it wasn’t magnetic. I showed it to John and he agreed it was terrestrial. I chipped away at it with a knife which you also wouldn’t be able to do to a real meteorite.

Bird in Hand Search Team

Bird in Hand Search Team

On the way out of town we drove around the area again to write down some addresses and take some notes. I’m planning on sending out a direct mail with our information packet to all of the residents in the target zone. I firmly believe in order to find these meteorites we will need the complete support of the community. These remnants will not be found by a single person it will take an army of people to eventually find them. That is why it is critical to get the word out to the community and the land owners, especially at this time. We need to search the land before it is re-tilled and fertilized for next season. Additionally autumn leaves on the ground will make searching that much harder. Time is of the essence, if we are going to find this thing we need to find it within the next 2-3 months.

Marc Fries Says What?

Marc Fries Says What?

I talked to Rob Matson and Marc Fries tonight and asked them if it would be ok to publish their maps and models on my site. I told them I felt it was critical to get all of the information we have out to the public as finding this meteor would require a lot of foot soldiers on the ground. They agreed publishing the data was the best way to find the meteorites. Its 3AM in the morning now and it will take me some time to put the maps and information online. You can expect this in tomorrow’s update.

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4 Comments for this entry

  • Dion

    Sounds like yesterday turned out good

  • John Divelbiss

    Mike,

    Nice job with the website updates and thank you for your efforts to help keep us and others looking for this sensational fall. The combination of the brilliant fireball and tremendous sonic boom is a story in itself. Videos then lead us towards finding it with science telling us where it is…that would be a great story. We also have your insane photo and its’ contribution.

    You mentioned I was a meteorite hunter…Not sure about that, but maybe with time. I’ve been a rock hound all my life, and a meteorite collector for almost 10 years. I’m always on the look out for meteorites. Still looking for find #1. This is my first real hunt.

    With that said, if nothing is found and we all slowly fade away from our searching, I will always cherish this chase and the excitement it brought. I have a new level of appreciation for those who do this on a regular basis. It takes effort for sure. Finding the first piece from a new fall is obviously the key, with no matter to me as to who finds this one. I hope it is an Amish person. Once found, the real hunt begins for many others.

    Bottom line, meteorite hunting in a particular area must be a lot easier (mentally) I imagine if you know other specimens have been found before. Or maybe it actually becomes more frustrating if you in turn can’t find one yourself, where previously found??

    Belief in the model’s predictions for this one is our only hope at this point to continue to spread the news and search. Let’s give it our best shot this fall !

    John

  • Marc Fries

    LOL! Marc Fries does NOT think a 10,000g meteorite landed right there! I used a range of masses for my estimated strewn field from 10,000 to 0.1g in 10x increments to define the end points of a potential strewn field. That doesn’t mean there is actually a 10 kg meteorite there. I’d focus on the 1kg-100g regions of the map, which is a far more likely range of values.

  • Marc Fries

    …and I definitely don’t think there is a 10kg meteorite embedded in the windshield frame of your automobile! ;-)

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