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Planetary Field Researcher Finds 3 Space Rocks From Michigan Meteor

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While passing through the Earth's atmosphere, last Tuesday's meteor exploded 20 miles above Livingston County, showering most of its fragments over Hamburg Township and Lakeland.

This brought out dozens of meteorite hunters in hopes of finding precious stones. However, not all of them know where to look.

Being a freelance planetary field researcher for scientists, Robert Ward knew the exact location by analyzing seismic and witness data, as well as results from the Doppler weather radar.

Together with his team, Ward headed to a frozen park last Thursday where he spotted three meteorites in less than four hours.

"It's a really spectacular specimen," he says while showing off the largest stone he found on the park's lake. "Two days ago, this was hundreds of thousands of miles past the moon, and now I'm standing here holding it in my hand. It's been a real good day."

According to the researcher, every fragment discovered contributes to the knowledge of how planets and other objects in the solar system are formed.

Meteorite Consultant Offers Cash Reward For Meteorites

The first person to recover a space rock weighing 1 kilogram or about 2.2 pounds urges meteorite hunters to continue looking for undiscovered fragments as they are a "winning extraterrestrial lottery ticket."

Daryl Pitt currently serves as the meteorite consultant of the New York auction house Christie's and is among the largest private collectors of space rocks in the world. He is now offering a $20,000 reward in exchange of the meteor's fragments.

"It's better to go out there and find them sooner, because the longer they're on the ground, the more they tend to blend in with Earth rocks," Pitt says. "I really want this to be found and the only way that's going to happen is if there are more boots on the ground."

The collector said it is uncommon for him to offer a cash prize for the precious stones as there are only a few meteor events with its specific trajectory and location announced to the public.

He explained that he is "especially motivated" to obtain a fragment of the meteor because he grew up in Southfield, Michigan. In fact, he was able to attend college at the University of Michigan.

Spaceguard Program: NASA's Asteroid Watch

Considering the potential destruction asteroids could bring to Earth, NASA has kept a close watch for asteroids since the 1990s.

In 1996, the space agency established the Spaceguard program that monitors near-Earth objects such as comets and asteroids that come within 45 million kilometers of the planet's orbit. A statement reports that to date, 65 percent of an estimated 1,100 near-Earth objects larger than 1 kilometer have already been identified through the program.

The program is currently manned by an international team of astronomers and continues to develop technology that would allow better tracking of comets and asteroids.

Last Tuesday, NASA detected the Michigan meteor and determined its trajectory by analyzing eyewitness accounts. It describes the fireball as "very slow moving" at 28,000 miles an hour that has "penetrated deep" into the Earth's atmosphere before breaking apart.

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