Monday's meteor fell on Lorton, Va. doctors' office
A Washington DC television station is reporting an apparent meteorite fall in Lorton, Va. The space rock, which has been taken to the Smithsonian Institution, crashed through the roof of a doctor's office at around 5:45 p.m. on Monday, narrowly missing patients and staff.
NOTE: An earlier version of this post erroneously referred to the office as a dental office. Although there is a dental office in the building, the doctors who found the meteorite are in a family medical practice. The Weatherblog regrets the error.
The reported time of the fall matches closely the time that scores of people from New Jersey to southern Virginia reported they saw a bright meteor fall, leaving a writhing smoke trail in the twilight sky. The Baltimore Sun's WeatherBlog has received more than 100 reports of the fall from observers.
The story on the Web site of WUSA9 in Washington says the mango-sized meteorite crashed through the roof and acoustical tiles of the Williamsburg Square Family Practice office in Lorton. Dr. Frank Ciampi told the station the crash was so loud he thought bookshelves had toppled.
Experts at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, interviewed by the station, confirmed the fractured meteorite was a stony "chondrite" meteorite, with a dark fusion crust formed by the heat of its passage through the atmosphere.
Professional meteorite hunter Steve Arnold says he is on his way to Virginia. "I hope to find some other pieces," he said in email to the WeatherBlog. Arnold, TV's "Meteorite Man," also took part in the apparently unsuccessful hunt for fragments of the meteor that fell somewhere along the Mason-Dixon line north of Baltimore last July 6. That fall was accompanied by a sonic boom that startled residents in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The Smithsonian museum's Linda Welzenbach said the Lorton meteorite is believed to be only the fourth confirmed meteorite fall in Virginia's history.
UPDATE: Meteorite hunters have been using readers' comments to the WeatherBlog to calculate the entry path of the meteorite. They've been scouring the comments, especially, for descriptions of the altitude and angle of the meteor's arrival last Monday evening. Not everyone included that information in their comments. There's still time. Here's a note I received Monday, Jan. 25 from Rob Matson. You can contact him directly at Robert.email@example.com :
"I've been following the posts on your blog by witnesses to the
Lorton fireball in the hopes of finding someone, *anyone*, who
viewed the fall "from the side" as opposed to roughly inline
with it (someone that wasn't NNE or SSW of Lorton). It's a
shame that not one of the witnesses from well east or well
west of the meteor made mention of the *slope* of the meteor's
path relative to the horizon. This is a critical piece of
information as far as reconstruction of the 3D track. I was
really hoping that one of the easternmost observers (e.g.
Rehoboth Beach, DE; Ocean City, MD) would have commented
about the slope since it most definitely did not fall
vertically toward the horizon from these vantage points. Even
better would have been a single picture of the smoke trail
from one of these side-viewing vantage points. Surely in
this age when everyone has a cell phone camera, someone must
have taken such an image?
"If you have any images or even sketches of the bolide's path
(or its smoke trail taken as soon after the fall as possible),
I would love to see them. Even one such image where the path
wasn't vertical would allow a crude reconstruction of the
entry angle, aiding in the recovery of additional specimens
from the fall. - Best wishes, Rob"
This request for help was answered by several readers. Matson has since sent the following:Hi Frank,
Thanks very much for posting my message on your blog. As a result, I've already received one image from one of your readers (Columbia, MD vantage point) which is the most useful along-track view of the smoke trail I've seen to date, as it contains both the track and the crescent Moon. Used in conjunction with the smoke trail image taken from Silver Spring (would love to know the precise location for that image, btw), I can construct a crude 3D track solution.
But I'm still holding out hope for an image from the Chesapeake or anywhere along the DelMarVa peninsula.