Meteor hunters zero in on intergalactic treasure

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on February 5, 2012 at 11:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 4:04 PM

VAN ZANDT COUNTY — Parked on the corner of Country Roads 3601 and 3604 in Edgewood, McCartney Taylor and Torvald Hessel review a map to plan their next move.

They're looking for space treasure — the remnants of a large meteor that streaked across the North Texas sky last week.

"I mean, this is all about the world's biggest Easter egg hunt for science people," said Taylor, who's from the Texas Meteorite Laboratory. "It's just now a race to find where did it fall?"

The crew from Austin is trying to track down the fallen meteor. They believe they're on the right track after reviewing videos, radar, and witness reports.

"I'm 99.9 percent certain that there is material on the ground," said Torvald Hessel of the Austin Planetarium. "And looking at the maps, I'm quite confident we are in the right spot right here."

This is an expedition that must be done on foot, with all eyes on the ground.

"We are basically looking for burnt, black rocks," Taylor explained. "They look like pieces of concrete that have been spray-painted with black. The surface is always smooth, and magnets stick to it... that's what we're after."

"I modified my walking stick to put a magnet on the end, so I tap on something and see if it's magnetic," Hessel added. "I hope to find a nice real meteorite."

But this is needle-in-a-haystack territory.

The meteor hunters narrow down their search by visiting homes and talking with residents, staying close to the area where "the boom" was heard.

"We didn't think a whole lot about it the other night when we saw stuff," said Brian Bannister, who gave Hessel and Taylor permission to search his 100-acre property.

"If it hit in our place, I guess that would be pretty cool," Bannister said.

The quest will log dozens of miles, but Hessel and Taylor say every step is worth it, because if they find one meteorite, they hit the jackpot.

There were no discoveries this weekend, but the meteorite hunters refuse to give up on finding a piece of space on Texas soil.

"That it happens in our backyard? That's awesome," Hessel said.

Perhaps some of the meteor fell in your backyard. If you find evidence, Taylor is offering $3 per gram. That means a fist-size piece could be worth $1,500.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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