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Column — Bulloch History

Meteorites fall in Bulloch

Of the 23 meteorites found in Georgia, two were found in the Bulloch County area: one was actually found by a local resident, Harold Cannon. He discovered a meteorite in June 2000 when harvesting butter beans with his mechanical picker. He thought it looked strange, and threw it next to a shed and then promptly forgot about it.
His lack of knowledge is understandable when you consider Aristotle declared that meteorites were nothing but the tops of volcanoes which had been blown off far away. Sir Isaac Newton declared that no such small rocks could exist in space because the planets must have empty space in order to maintain their orbits. When Thomas Jefferson read a report about two Connecticut scientists who had decided meteorites did indeed fall from outer space, he declared that “I would find it easier to believe two Yankee Professors would lie than that stones should fall from the sky”.
When Cannon rediscovered the rock in June of 2003, he went to Georgia Southern and met with research scientist Michael Kelly and assistant professor Pranoti Asher. They told him it was indeed otherworldly, and proceeded to take 30 micron thick section samples, glued to glass slides with an epoxy glue. This stony meteorite had a “rusty weathered rind 2-3 millimeters thick”, something that set it apart from Earth rocks.
There are two basic types of meteorites: finds, that are found after they impact the Earth; and falls, which are seen falling. In Georgia, there have only been 4 falls. One of these hit near to Bulloch County: it struck a mailbox in Claxton on 12/10/1984. This however, was very clearly a find, not as valuable, but still worthy of much attention.
Consisting of primarily olivine and pyroxene, it also had iron metal as the main minerals in it. For a meteorite this is quite common, but for earth rocks, it is quite rare. They also found chondrules (round grains, which told them that this probably was an “ordinary” meteor. Tests showed that the Statesboro meteorite came from an asteroid belt somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dr. Michael Gaffey, an asteroid expert, confirmed it was an L-type chondrite (low iron content), and his finding was further verified by the Vatican’s own meteorite expert.
The Meteorite Society reviews samples (at least 20 grams) to give formal recognition to meteorite, and they began the process to get the “Statesboro” name in the record books. They sent 25 grams to Dr. Timothy McCoy, curator of meteorites at Smithsonian Institute, and 30 grams to Dr. Stan Mertzman of Franklin and Marshall College, and both men agreed that what Cannon had found was indeed an L-type chondrite.
Dr. Kees Welton of Space Sciences Laboratory at University of California, with help of Max Plank Institute in Germany, deduced that Statesboro meteorite had collided with another object some 200 million years ago – and that it had traveled 7 million years before actually hitting the earth
He guessed that the original rock from whence it came had been at least 24-32 inches in diameter and weighed several tons. What was left when Cannon got to it was only 6 inches long and weighed less than 6 pounds. Having verified his find, the two GSU Professors filed the paperwork to identify this meteorite as “Statesboro”, and ensure that it would be placed in the International meteorite catalog, with the new name now approved by the Nomenclature Society.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger dodger53@hotmail.com

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