Meteorite hunters in town, seek both witnesses and fallen objects

An Atlanta meteorite hunter was in Augusta on Friday searching for remnants of a meteorite believed to have caused an early morning sonic boom and fireball sighting on March 20.

Atlanta businessman Dave Gheesling, who claims the largest meteorite collection in the Southeast, said he believes there is material on the ground from the “epic event” of last week, and he’s confident some debris could be located in the Augusta area within days with the help of the public.

“At this point we don’t want to rule out certain areas within the Augusta metroplex,” he said.

There are likely more than one recovery site throughout the area because, he says, he thinks there were several detonations of the meteor.

Mr. Gheesling said Marc Fries, a scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was able to detect a meteorite debris cloud from the event using Doppler radar.

“The Georgia fireball is only the second time that Doppler radar provided evidence of a meteorite fall,” Mr. Gheesling stated in a news release.

Darryl Pitt, of the Macovich Collection in New York City – a large collection of meteorites – also has been in the Augusta area along with Mr. Gheesling.

Also, meteorite hunting group from the western United States has said it would be coming to Augusta to interview witnesses.

So far, Mr. Gheesling said he has talked to about 200 people throughout the Augusta area. He said he’s offering $20,000 to the public for the first one kilo – 2.2 pounds – or more of meteorite found.

For more information on Mr. Gheesling, visit his Web site, www.fallingrocks.com.

For those wanting to see firsthand what they should be looking for locally, the Dupont Planetarium in the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at USC Aiken will be holding a special observatory event starting at 4 p.m. April 4.

The event will include a display of meteorites and some telescope observing opportunities.

“We’re just anticipating people wanting to know more about the meteorite,” said Dr. Gary Senn, the planetarium’s director.

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