Mike's Astro Photos
Jan.22 2010

Lorton Virginia Meteorite – Update

by , under Comets & Meteors

Lorton Dentist Office - Hammer Stone Site

Lorton Dentist Office - Hammer Stone Site

On Wednesday night I watched the series premier of the new Meteorite Men TV show on the science channel. The show was fantastic and a must see! It airs Wednesday nights at 9:00 PM (and re-runs at 11:00 PM I think) on the science channel. Around 1:30 AM that night I was checking my emails before I went to bed and got an email from Steve Arnold, one of the costars of the show. The email read:

    What are you doing tomorrow? Want to go meteorite hunting?

My response was of course ‘heck ya’, but I had no idea what he was talking about. I thought to myself, am I dreaming? On the reply Steve filled me in on what had happened in Lorton. The funny thing is, Monday night at 6:00 PM I got a call from Mike Gaines (star witness of the Mason Dixon Meteor). Mike told me his daughter had just seen a huge fireball. At the time I said to myself, I can only handle one fireball right now and didn’t give it much thought. Turns out that meteorite knocked a whole in a Doctor’s Office just a few minutes earlier. The news didn’t hit the meteorite world until late Wednesday.

Steve Arnold - Lorton VA

Steve Arnold - Lorton VA

I met up with Steve at the airport and then drove down to Lorton Virginia Thursday afternoon. Steve was pretty tied up with the media people and the TV production crew so I used the time to get some fresh hunting in at the spot. There had only been a couple of other meteorite hunters there before us so it was virgin territory right next to a confirmed fall. What else could you ask for? Well after a couple of days of hunting and turning up nada I can conclude hunting in a confirmed fall area is just as hard as hunting in Lancaster County. Despite the rain and freezing rain more hunters showed up Friday but to my knowledge no one has found any additional stones yet.

On the positive side, there are numerous witness reports of lots of fragmentation and multiple burning embers falling from the sky. This means there are a lot more rocks to be found. The area is densely populated and relatively easy searching terrain. There are lots of parking lots, public places, parks and walking paths. The exact trajectory is still unknown and to my knowledge no videos have yet been recovered. Finding video evidence of this fireball is critical to finding more meteorites on the ground. While we have an impact point, the orientation and relationship of this stone to the rest of the strewnfield is still unknown. I know Derek Bower and several other meteorite hunters will be hunting the area for the next few weeks. There is a very good chance more stones will be found soon. Personally I think I’m going to sit the rest of this one out. I can only handle one fireball at a time.

Here’s a map of the area and what is currently believed to be the primary search grounds.

Lorton VA Estimated Strewnfield Map - Hot zone

Lorton VA Estimated Strewnfield Map - Hot zone

Even with a hammer stone the sad reality of meteorite hunting is the strewnfield could be up to 8 miles long or longer. In the case of Lorton, because we have no video we don’t know the trajectory of the meteor and therefore can not guess the elongated strewnfield with any degree of certainty, a second stone or recovery of video tape is critical to finding the rest of this meteor.

Here’s a hypothetical take on what the larger strewnfield could look like if it was 8 miles long based on our current knowledge of the trajectory. As you can see the search angle could be anywhere from 45º-70º NE of the original impact site. It is possible larger stones (if they exist) would have traveled SW of the impact site. From a hunting standpoint though the odds are better if you are looking for smaller stones (because there are more of them). The smaller meteorites would be NE of the impact site.

Lorton Elongated Estimated Strewnfield

Lorton Elongated Estimated Strewnfield

Here are a few articles about the meteor:

I will keep you posted on any further developments on this meteorite story.


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