For "rock heads," it's the quest for the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Convenant and Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket all in one.
As amateur meteorite hunters scour Novato and Sonoma looking for chunks of last week's fireball that broke up over the North Bay, the scientist who cried "Eureka!" followed by a quick "My Bad!" is now convinced there is not only one space rock found in Novato but two.
"This is wild," said Leigh Blair, one of the Pleasant Valley neighborhood residents who has spent the better part of the week dealing with astronomers, both professional and amateur, along with curious neighbors and inquisitive media.
The rock found Oct. 19 at the home of Blair's neighbors, Rev. Kent and Lisa Webber, is back in the hands of Peter Jenniskens, a NASA astronomer based in Mountain View. He has made several trips to Novato in the past week and, as of Wednesday night, is convinced that stone is a meteorite, according to a post on his blog from the SETI Institute.
"An apology (to Lisa Webber) may have been too hasty," he wrote.
Jenniskens spent Wednesday evening at the home of Blair, her husband Luis Rivera and their 23-year-old son, Glenn, examining and discussing the findings with meteorite field investigator Robert Verish as the Giants' World Series game was shown on TV. Jenniskens and Verish talked about the second rock found at an undisclosed location about 2 1/2 miles from the Webber's home by meteorite hunter Brien Cook of Sacramento. The second rock is almost identical in size and appearance to the first one — about 2.2 ounces.
Cook broke up his rock and turned it over part of it to Jenniskens for an examination. Both stones have been sliced so their cores can be examined.
"We now understand that the layered structure of the fusion crust that made me doubt myself is not the result of terrestrial weathering," Jenniskens wrote on his blog. "That is a big relief! What a privilege to get to study such an unusual and hard-to-identify meteorite!"
Jenniskens told Blair he will head to UCLA to collaborate with a meteorite expert and compare slices of the two rocks found in Novato.
Glenn Rivera, a recent USC music graduate who is in the music promotion business, is now the owner of the first rock, his mother said. When Jenniskens told Lisa Webber that he believed he was incorrect with his initial finding, Webber gave the rock to Rivera, who had helped her determined it was magnetic — which led both of them to track down Jenniskens in the first place.
Meanwhile, Jenniskens has arranged for a dirigible to fly over the trajectory path of the fireball Friday to see if there are possible crash zones for larger chunks of meteorite in Novato and Sonoma counties. Glenn Rivera has been invited along for the flight, Leigh Blair said.
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