Here are the Starr County meteorite fragments which may one day save the planet
Five suspected meteorite fragments recovered in Starr County since last Friday are part of an unusual global pattern, according to the man who found them.
He believes information gathered from them can potentially save the earth from a larger, scarier earth-bound meteorite.
"Fingers crossed that we just made some history,” said Robert Ward, a meteor hunter.
It was anyone’s guess where exactly, if at all, the meteorite landed after it roared across the Upper Valley. But in the last several days, suspected fragments were found about 50 miles to the east in the area of El Sauz in Starr County, according to Ward, who claimed finding the pieces.
“[I] get there as quickly as I can and recover a piece as quickly as you can before it's altered by rain, moisture, terrestrial contamination of any kind."
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He said the exact property where the pieces settled is confidential.
The El Sauz area is a vast part of Starr County, easily tens of thousands of acres.
Ward searched in El Sauz alongside NASA planetary scientist Marc Fries. Fries said he’s now in possession of one fragment of roughly 20 grams. He said he’s not the owner, but is turning the sample to Rice University, where his wife Linda Welzenbach-Fries will do a preliminary analysis.
“All the meteorites we find are turned over to the landowner in order to prevent any conflict of interest with my federal job as a NASA collections manager,” he said.
Ward works differently. He has a vast personal collection of hundreds of meteorites on his website, robertwardmeteorites.com. Ward said he will begin classifying the fragments soon.
The characteristics of the fragments found in El Sauz may be further confirmed with lab analysis.
A properly equipped lab can review a slide of the rock under a microscope.
Chemical analysis is also a possibility.
Asked if the fragments should be considered “suspected meteorites,” Dr. Fries explained the degree of certainty he and his wife share.
“We are both 100% confident these are meteorites. Still, it is completely reasonable to call them ‘suspected’ until analyses come in,” he said.
Officially titled “Planetary Science Field Researcher,” with the American Meteor Society, Ward said he’s recovered 650 meteorites on six continents over 34 years.
However, this particular event in South Texas was unusual.
"We have three events in three days. And they appear to be a very similar type of meteorite."
Fireball meteorites landed on February 13 in France, 14th in Italy, and 15th here in Texas. That suggests it’s part of a larger pattern.
"We've often thought that there's a good chance that certain events are what we call 'ejection-paired.' So there's a large enough asteroid belt, whether it be several millions of years ago or several billions of years ago, which is more likely,” Ward said.
“There was kind of cataclysmic event between some very large asteroids, and there were large amounts of material ejected. And some of that debris is on an earth-crossing orbit."
He says further analysis of the fragments found from this event will determine if more are headed our way.
"Ultimately, this could lead to some very interesting revelations for planetary defense,” said Ward.