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Meteorite Scorecard: From Zero to 2 Overnight

Rock found Oct. 19, first called a meteorite and then retracted by an astronomer, now appears to be a legit space rock when compared to second one found in Novato.

For "rock heads," it's the quest for the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Convenant and Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket all in one.

As amateur meteorite hunters scour Novato and Sonoma looking for chunks of last week's fireball that broke up over the North Bay, the scientist who cried "Eureka!" followed by a quick "My Bad!" is now convinced there is not only one space rock found in Novato but two.

"This is wild," said Leigh Blair, one of the Pleasant Valley neighborhood residents who has spent the better part of the week dealing with astronomers, both professional and amateur, along with curious neighbors and inquisitive media.

The rock found Oct. 19 at the home of Blair's neighbors, Rev. Kent and Lisa Webber, is back in the hands of Peter Jenniskens, a NASA astronomer based in Mountain View. He has made several trips to Novato in the past week and, as of Wednesday night, is convinced that stone is a meteorite, according to a post on his blog from the SETI Institute.

"An apology (to Lisa Webber) may have been too hasty," he wrote.

Jenniskens spent Wednesday evening at the home of Blair, her husband Luis Rivera and their 23-year-old son, Glenn, examining and discussing the findings with meteorite field investigator Robert Verish as the Giants' World Series game was shown on TV. Jenniskens and Verish talked about the second rock found at an undisclosed location about 2 1/2 miles from the Webber's home by meteorite hunter Brien Cook of Sacramento. The second rock is almost identical in size and appearance to the first one — about 2.2 ounces.

Cook broke up his rock and turned it over part of it to Jenniskens for an examination. Both stones have been sliced so their cores can be examined.

"We now understand that the layered structure of the fusion crust that made me doubt myself is not the result of terrestrial weathering," Jenniskens wrote on his blog. "That is a big relief! What a privilege to get to study such an unusual and hard-to-identify meteorite!"

Jenniskens told Blair he will head to UCLA to collaborate with a meteorite expert and compare slices of the two rocks found in Novato.

Glenn Rivera, a recent USC music graduate who is in the music promotion business, is now the owner of the first rock, his mother said. When Jenniskens told Lisa Webber that he believed he was incorrect with his initial finding, Webber gave the rock to Rivera, who had helped her determined it was magnetic — which led both of them to track down Jenniskens in the first place.

Meanwhile, Jenniskens has arranged for a dirigible to fly over the trajectory path of the fireball Friday to see if there are possible crash zones for larger chunks of meteorite in Novato and Sonoma counties. Glenn Rivera has been invited along for the flight, Leigh Blair said.

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Sarah Gant October 26, 2012 at 05:25 PM
**Breaking News** has become one of those relative terms thanks to CNN and 24 hour news. I'd totally have opened it right away if it said , "Cool News" or "Far Out News" but when I see "Breaking News" I am hoping they have caught the burglars plaguing my neighborhood.
Douglas K October 26, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Just posted a photo of a dirigible puttering over Novato skies, perhaps scanning for meteorites with a special magnetometer array. Yes, this is the future we were promised.
Novato Native October 27, 2012 at 05:58 AM
Love The Patch...I do stop for "Breaking News" but I am torn in whether to suggest rwo types of alerts: 1.Breaking 2. Emergency or just toss anything exciting in Nova to as "Breaking"! Our police report while not the good old "house vandelized by toilet paper pack" reports of 10 years ago it still is pretty quiet! Thanks, Patch!
Leigh October 27, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Dan, I love your comment. So true...especially about the hard work and perseverance required AFTER you have the lucky moment of a meteorite falling to earth. I hope that folks who saw the zeppelin EUREKA overhead yesterday realize they are on the path of entry and could have a "Eureka!" moment themselves - finding a meteorite from outer space that came from between Mars and Jupiter!
Leigh October 28, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Currently the meteorite is being examined at UCLA to determine its composition. The scientists are just as anxious as you are to lay their hands on it! Rides on the airship can be arranged; Airship Ventures out of Moffett Field offers flights on the zeppelin EUREKA from Moffett, Oakland, Long Beach, etc. Website: http://www.airshipventures.com/fly-with-us to book reservations. This weekend (Oct 27/28) you may see the airship over Sonoma County as they are touring from Santa Rosa airport over the wine country. Eureka is one of only two zeppelins operating in the US.

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