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Origin Of Meteorite That Crashed Into Novato Home Traced Back 4 Billion Years To Formation Of Moon

by Bill Disbrow
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Novato Meteorite

A meteorite found in Novato is believed to be a piece of the flaming fireball that streaked across northern California on Oct 17, 2012. (CBS)

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NOVATO (CBS SF) – A Marin County woman’s claims that a meteorite plunked down on the roof of her home have been validated by a team of planetary scientists who say the space debris started on a path to her house some 4.47 billion years ago, following the formation of the moon.

Lisa Webber was watching TV at home when she heard a space rock plunk down on her Novato home on October 17th, 2012.

“I hear this bump, bump, bump, like something hit the roof. And I thought ‘that’s odd, I have no overhanging trees,’” Lisa told CBS 5 at the time.

Two days later Lisa read an article about a meteor that was seen across the Bay Area sky that night. She remembered the thump on her roof and decided to look around to see if a fragment of the meteor (technically a meteorite) had made the noise.

Lisa found a small rock that Dr. Peter Jenniskens, with NASA’s SETI institute, said was indeed a piece from the flaming fireball. He helped track the path of the meteor, capturing the image on an array of video cameras.

At the time others disputed the find, claiming that the meteorite was just a rock. In the nearly two years since, Jenniskens and an international consortium of space researchers have studied the meteorite, now known as “Novato” and published their findings in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

“Our investigation has revealed a long history that dates to when the moon formed from the Earth after a giant impact,” says Peter Jenniskens,

Jenniskens teamed with scientists from U.C. Davis and U.C. Berkeley to date the rock’s formation 4.472 billion years ago, roughly 100 million years after the formation of the solar system.

“We now suspect that the moon-forming impact may have scattered debris all over the inner solar system and hit the parent body of the Novato meteorite,” said Qing-zhu Yin, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at U.C. Davis.

Scientists say Novato may have broken off from a larger meteor family about a million years ago, continuing through space and potentially being struck several other times over its lifetime while also being exposed to extreme heat before finally reaching Earth’s atmosphere two years ago.

“This meteorite – now one of the best studied meteorites of its kind – broke in spurts, each time creating a flash of light as it entered Earth’s atmosphere,” said Jenniskens. “In all, six surviving fragments were recovered.”

You can check out SETI’s complete timeline of the Novato investigation here.

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