The last time a meteorite was found in Florida was in 1983. While it is rare for meteorites to be found in the state, six of them were recently found near Lake City.
The meteorites are believed to be a result of a daytime fireball — a space debris randomly meeting the Earth’s atmosphere and producing an intense light — that travelled across the skies of northern Florida on Jan. 24 around 10:25 a.m., according to Vincent Perlerin, community manager for the American Meteor Society.
Perlerin said the Society received about 120 eyewitness reports of this one.
“Thanks to the reports we received about this event, we calculated a rough trajectory of the fireball and an estimated impact point,” Perlerin said. “We were very lucky this time. The first meteorite had been found less than 500 yards from our estimated impact point.”
Mike Hankey, AMS operational manager, along with Larry Atkins, Laura Atkins, Josh Adkins and Brendan Fallon went hunting for the space rocks for several days in the dense swampland just north of the Osceola National Forest, located between Lake City and Sanderson.
After tracking down the first four meteorites, it took the meteorite hunters two weeks to find the two remaining pieces, Hankey said.
“The hardest part of the search is probably fatigue that sets in after walking around for eight-plus hours a day, multiple days in a row,” Hankey said. “Your body starts to hurt after awhile.”
One of the fragments was sent to Alan Rubin, a meteorite expert and researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. Rubin is analyzing the meteorite to determine the classification.
Test results take about two weeks. The only information from the analysis so far is that the meteorite is an ordinary chondrite meteorite, Hankey said.
The meteorite findings are valuable to scientific studies and price is dictated by supply and demand, Hankey said. Aside from the historical impact, the findings do not indicate any changes or implications for the environment.
The meteorites help researchers find out more about the formation of the solar system, the atmospheres and the geology of space bodies, Perlerin said.
“Meteorites are very hard to find,” Perlerin said. “Most meteorites will and have hit water, leaving no trace. If you want to find a meteorite, you need to meet witnesses of the fall and/or have many sky cameras and/or use the American Meteor Society reports.”
The Osceola meteorites have made history as only five meteorites had previously been found in Florida, according to Hankey.
“We were very lucky. The majority of the meteorites are found in deserts because it’s easy to find a dark rock in the middle of a sea of sand. It isn’t easy to find a dark rock in the middle of swamp,” Perlerin said.
Erick Williams caught the fireball shooting across the sky on his dashboard camera as he was driving back home to Jacksonville after visiting his daughter in Orlando.
“I was driving north on I-75 between Ocala and Gainesville when I saw the only daytime meteor I had ever seen. The meteor was a bright orange color and was just amazing,” Williams said. “I am very lucky to have gotten it on my dash cam. The video just doesn’t do justice to what I witnessed.”
Look closely at the center-left area of the sky in the video’s 0:12 mark.