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When Leonids attack!

Just as Laura walked toward the house to get her husband, Tom, a chunk of rock fell from the sky, slamming down to her left near where she had been standing just moments before.

via the forteana list.

Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 10:24:43 -0000
From: Scott Wood (spam-protected)
To: Forteana (spam-protected) Fort Research List (spam-protected)
Subject: When Leonid’s Attack!

A memento from the sky

Family nearly hit by possible meteorite from Leonid display

BY LU ANN FRANKLIN Times Correspondent

Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2001

HIGHLAND — When Laura Yuran and her 11-year-old son, Jonathon, awoke at 4 a.m. Sunday to watch the Leonid meteor shower outside the family’s home in Highland, they never expected to be a target for space debris.

About a half hour into their sky gazing mother and son began hearing something that sounded like hail falling. A short time later, those hail-like objects started pelting the pair. Just as Laura walked toward the house to get her husband, Tom, a chunk of rock fell from the sky, slamming down to her left near where she had been standing just moments before.

“It went, ‘Boom!’ and I screamed,” Laura recalled. “Part of it hit the driveway and the second part was embedded in the ground. I was afraid to touch it.”

Laura’s scream brought Tom outside. Locating the rocks with a flashlight, he picked them up, finding them cold to the touch. He had to pull the smaller stone out of the lawn.

“It’s beautiful,” Laura said of the family’s newest treasure.

Jim Seevers, an astronomer from Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, said the rocks are most likely meterorites from the Leonid meteor shower. The rust color is “the fusion crust,” he said, which is typical of a meteorite that has been seared by the earth’s atmosphere.

“The rock probably chipped off and the shiny, silver they see is the inside,” Seevers said. “It’s most likely iron and nickel.”

Although Tom Yuran was concerned that the rocks might be radioactive, Seever said they are basically rocks mixed with metal, such as bits of iron. The rarest of all meteorites are composed of carbon, another common element in the universe, and “look like a hunk of charcoal,” Seevers said.

The astronomer said meterorites are slowed down by the earth’s atmosphere much like a parachute slows down a skydiver. At 60 miles up in the atmosphere, the rock then begins a fall to earth. Its size and the speed it is traveling will determine how hard it hits and if it will become embedded in the Earth.

“If it had hit me, I could have been killed,” Laura Yuran said. “We hid under the awning on our porch because we were afraid of more rocks falling down.”

Seevers recommended that the Yurans allow the geology staff at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to analyze the rock.

“We don’t have a lab here at the Adler Planetarium,” he said. “The staff at the museum’s meteorite lab will be able to tell them the rock’s composition.”

On Monday afternoon, the Yurans contacted Dr. Menache Wadhwa, the curator of the Field Museum’s meteorite collection, for an opinion.

“She wants us to bring her a small piece of it on Wednesday morning. She said we’re the only ones anywhere who have reported falling meteorites from the Leonid meteor shower,” Tom said.

In fact, after talking with Wadhwa, Jonathon began searching for more pieces of the meteorite. He quickly located two more small rocks that weigh about one ounce each.

Laura said until the rocks are analyzed, she’s trying to play hostess to the excited neighborhood children whom Jonathon has invited over to see the space debris. Eventually she hopes to put the objects in a display case and give it to her son who collects rocks.

The next time the Yuran family could gather to view the Leonid meteor shower is in 2034. That’s when the comet Temple-Tuttle, which causes the Leonid display, will pass by Earth again.

“We really enjoyed watching it, with the blue lights and long tails,” Laura said. “If it wasn’t for Jonathon setting his alarm and waking us up, we wouldn’t have seen it.”

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