Jul 30, 2014
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Meteor Chunk Found – Hit Novato Pastor's Home

The first confirmed piece of the big meteor that exploded over the Bay Area Wednesday has been found – a 2-inch rock that bonked the home of pastor in Novato. A meteor-tracking astronomer confirmed that it's part of a wayward ancient asteroid.

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A NASA-affiliated astronomer confirmed Sunday that a golf ball-sized rock that struck a Novato house is the first confirmed piece from the meteor that exploded over the Bay Area Wednesday night.

The 2.2-ounce meteorite hit the roof of Rev. Kent and Lisa Webber on St. Francis Avenue on Wednesday night, but they didn't realize at the time what it was, according to Novato Patch.

"I am thrilled," said meteor-tracking astronomer Peter Jenniskens of the  SETI Institute in Mountain View, who held the 2.2-ounce meteorite Sunday morning while facing TV cameras in front of the Webbers' home.

"It's wonderful and very interesting to think this might be billions of years old," Rev. Webber said during a break from his Sunday duties at the Presbyterian Church of Novato. "Maybe God's trying to get our attention. I'm not sure what God is trying to say."

Lisa Webber, head nurse in the University of California-San Francisco's medical dermatology department, had heard a boom on Wednesday night followed by the sound of something rolling on her roof.

She didn't make the connection with the exploding meteor until a couple of days later when she read a news account saying that the debris was believed to have fallen along a swath stretching north through Marin County to the Sonoma/Napa area with Novato directly in the path.

"That's when I saw, 'Oh my gosh, I might have a little meteor chunk outside in the yard,'" she said.

Her neighbor's son was home at her moment of realization and recalled from a Discovery Channel show that pieces of meteor should be magnetic.

"So I go find a magnet and it sticks to it, and we both go, 'Whoa!'" she said.

At that point she contacted Jenniskens.

"We propose the name Novato meteorite, pending approval by the Meteorite Nomenclature Committee," according to a post on the website of Jenniskens' group,  Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance.

The post includes photos of the impact dent in the roof of the Webbers' home.

Based on the calculated trajectory refined by finding the Novato meterorite, Jenniskens believes it likely that larger fragments fell north-northeast towards Sonoma, according to the Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance website.

According to Jenniskens, the meteor that exploded over the Bay Area was very old, not part of the Orionids meteor shower visible this past week, but an ancient asteroid from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter left over from the birth of the solar system 4.7 billion years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle said.

The Orionid meteors are caused by the Earth pushing through debris left behind by Halley's comet.

Jenniskens was excited about the fundamental secrets that might be unlocked by the Novato meteorite. 

"This means that we have with this meteorite a great track that points back to its origins in the asteroid belt, so with a bit of luck we will be able to say what sort of debris field this rock originated from," he said. "... It will be really interesting to study this and see what this can tell us, either about the origin of the earth or the origin of life."

Novato Patch Editor Brent Ainsworth contributed to this article.

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