How one ‘meteorite hunter’ tracked down a big piece of Salt Lake City’s surprise meteor

After driving greater than 500 miles and looking for days, Mark Dayton lastly discovered what he’d been searching for, so he turned on his video digicam and began to speak.

“There’s gonna be a meteorite inside this hole,” he remembers recording.

Standing within the salt flats west of the Great Salt Lake’s waters, not a soul in sight for miles in any route, he started to dig.

A foot of progress later, and he was confirmed proper.

A black rock was nestled contained in the plunge gap he’d discovered, and similar to that, Dayton had uncovered a bit of meteorite doubtless as previous because the photo voltaic system itself — round 4.56 billion years previous.

He made the invention Tuesday afternoon round 4 p.m., after days of sunny, arduous work.

“It’s a really tough hunt, though, man,” he informed The Salt Lake Tribune. “It’s super dry and hot out there, and it’s miles from any roads. And it requires great physical effort to get out there and try to find the pieces.”

According to a researcher on the University of Utah, there’s a excessive probability that the rock Dayton discovered is a bit of the identical meteor that thundered over Salt Lake City simply two weeks in the past.

‘That is definitely a meteorite’

The rock is in regards to the measurement of a softball, Dayton stated, however that’s the place the similarities finish. For starters, the area rock is far heavier than a softball, weighing 484 grams, in line with Dayton, which is greater than a pound.

“It’s super heavy, because it has so much metal in it,” he stated. “If you were to hold it in your hand, you’d be shocked at the weight.”

Of the dozen or so items which have been recovered to this point, he stated his is the biggest, making it, for now, the “main mass.”

The meteorite’s skinny outer layer — generally known as the fusion crust — is a deep black shade from melting because it fell by way of the ambiance. And the white, spiderweb-like cracks alongside its floor are salts that have been both left there upon influence or have grown within the time since, in line with Jim Karner, a analysis affiliate professor on the University of Utah.

As quickly as he noticed footage of Dayton’s discover, Karner was unequivocal in his evaluation. “Well, that is definitely a meteorite,” he stated.

But is it from the identical fall that startled residents away from bed on Aug. 13?

It definitely seems to be that method. From his “quick and dirty” perusal, Karner stated the pictured rock appeared comparatively contemporary; the delicate fusion crust had not deteriorated considerably. Another technique to gauge a meteorite’s freshness is its “rustiness,” he stated, since most samples corrode shortly as a result of their metallic make-up.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A meteorite discovered by Mark Dayton, within the desert close to Tooele, proven on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022.

While totally different meteorites have doubtless landed in that space, Karner stated Dayton’s rock “looks a lot like the samples that I’ve seen so far.”

And he would know. Recently, the University of Utah was given a special piece of the meteor from one other hunter, and researchers are presently working by way of the official course of to get it categorised and named.

While Dayton obtained a number of presents to buy his piece of the meteorite, he declined, opting to maintain it for his assortment.

He couldn’t assist however gushing about his discovery throughout a telephone interview. “You’re holding a rock in your hand that was literally in space 10 days ago,” he stated.

That surreal feeling is among the causes he and different fanatics chase meteors throughout the nation.

The ‘race’ to hunt meteorites

On the morning of Aug. 13, the sonic growth heard alongside the Wasatch Front served not solely as an alarm clock for some sleepy residents, but additionally a beginning gun for meteorite fanatics across the globe.

Soon, Salt Lake City was host to a drove of visiting scientists — and meteorite hunters.

That’s what Dayton is, a minimum of half time.

Primarily a rustic musician hailing from California, he couldn’t drop every thing to make a cross-country journey to Salt Lake City immediately. He had two upcoming reveals booked and needed to wait till his schedule cleared.

“I wanted to come on the 14th, you know, but I had two more shows I had to do,” he stated.

Instead, he waited till Sunday. Once he received to Utah, he stayed on the identical Comfort Inn that many scientists and different meteorite hunters did. Though they operated from the identical base, there was little collaboration between hunters, Dayton stated.

“It’s a race,” he stated. “… Very few guys are telling each other any secret information, that’s for sure. They’re all out there trying to find a piece.”

So far, the outcomes of the competitors have are available shortly, and items of the meteorite are being discovered at a startling tempo. “The takeaway message here is that this is an amazingly rare event,” Karner stated, “because we recovered the rock just three days after it came to Earth.”

The fall over Salt Lake City was distinctive for quite a lot of causes, Dayton defined. The first rarity was the meteor flew over a serious city space like Utah’s capital, which means there have been quite a few eye witnesses and even video recordings of the fiery ball taking pictures throughout the sky. It additionally occurred throughout the daytime, so witnesses had a significantly better concept of the place the meteor was headed.

First-hand accounts are essential, since they provide hunters the info wanted to postulate a meteor’s trajectory.

Once they’ve the trajectory and approximate time of the autumn, scientists and hunters use Doppler radar knowledge, which is mostly used to trace precipitation, to make knowledgeable guesses about the place chunks of the area rock landed.

Dayton stated the scientific group has a selected curiosity on this form of knowledge, and through this hunt, they made it accessible to the general public.

“They can see not only precipitation, water droplets with radar, but they can also see flocks of birds and airplanes, and they can see rocks falling from the sky,” he stated. “And we’re able to slice through time, through milliseconds, and watch those rocks move. And we can kind of predict a path.”

And then the race is on.

“Basically, at that point, it’s a treasure map, right?” he stated. “Because X marks the spot.”

Or spots. The hunt isn’t over, and it’s potential many extra items of meteorite are strewn across the Great Salt Lake, nonetheless to be found.

Based on the variety of calls he’s been receiving, Dayton thinks phrase will begin spreading quickly, and rising numbers of individuals will be a part of the hunt.

“Now it’s gonna get a little more press,” he stated, “and I think more people will come.”

He is not going to be amongst them, nonetheless. He packed up and headed residence to California the day after he uncovered his prize, taking his personal little piece of the universe with him.

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