Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tellus Museum's Cartersville meteorite receives Smithsonian recognition

ATLANTA -- A four billion year-old meteorite which plunged into a house in metro Atlanta was officially recognized and named by the Smithsonian Institution with the assistance of the Meteoritical Society during a ceremony on Wednesday at the Tellus Science Museum.

The 295 gram meteorite was officially named Cartersville in honor of the city in which it landed, and the location of the museum it has called home for six years. It was classified as ordinary Chondrite L5 meteorite, according to Smithsonian officials, having low iron ore and a high shock level 5.

In addition to receiving an official name, Tellus received special news related to the meteorite after submitting all of their data to the Meteoritical Society. The news came as surprise to staff and volunteers at the science museum.

"The breaking news today is that we have radar confirmation that we have a confirmed fall," Tellus Curator Sarah Timm said on Wednesday during a formal announcement. "There are alot of meteorites that are found, but no one knows when they fell. So the fact that we can pinpoint the day and time that it fell is pretty incredible."

"This is super exciting because up until now we just had a proposed date, but by submitting all of our data they were able to look at the radar data from that day and they found radar proof, Timm added. NASA radar sites in Georgia and Alabama recorded the meteorite's signature during its descent.

The space rock fell to Earth on the night of March 1, 2009, punching a hole into the roof of Francis Richards' house before ricocheting off an attic support beam. The meteorite then slammed through a bedroom ceiling and bounced off a door before coming to a stop on the floor.

Ms. Richards discovered the meteorite while visiting her empty rental home one week later. Five months later she turned it over to Tellus' then-curator Julian Gray for observation. Tellus confirmed soon after that the rock was indeed a meteorite. It was later put on display and included small sections of the damaged boards from the house.

"I think it's interesting how a little rock like that can slice through a roof with no problem at all," Tellus Chief Astronomer David Dundee said on Wednesday as he reflected on the meteorite's history. "It was traveling a few hundred miles per hour before impacting. The cool thing is we uncovered it so quickly."

Timm submitted "Cartersville" to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C in 2015. The Smithsonian then sliced a 20 gram thin section off the rock for analysis and to study under a high power microscope.

"The Cartersville meteorite's history was very early on as it was apart of a larger parent body and something big smacked it and heated it up to deform it," Dundee said following the official announcement. "Then it spent four billion years minding its own business until it came to the vicinity of the Earth and Earth's gravity snatched it."

The Cartersville display is located inside the Tellus Science Museum's Weinman Mineral Gallery. The museum is located off of Interstate 75 at Exit 293, and is open seven days a week closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, New Years Day, and July Fourth.

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