Press Release

Rough road results in B.C. meteorite find

By SpaceRef Editor
January 9, 2007
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An impromptu detour on the back roads near Whistler, B.C. several decades ago led to the first new Canadian meteorite find of 2006 for a British Columbia man. The University of Calgary-based Prairie Meteorite Search has confirmed that a rock Vancouver resident Rolf Eipper picked up on the side of a gravel road in the 1980s is the 69th meteorite recovered in Canada.

“About 25 years ago I was trying to drive to Pemberton on Route 99, but the road was closed, so I tried a gravel road just north of Green Lake (near Whistler, B.C.) to see if I could detour around,” Eipper said. “The gravel road was getting rough and I started dragging my muffler on a high spot, so I stopped and got out to see if I could manage to manoeuvre without ripping my muffler off. I noticed the meteorite as a dark, rusty rock amongst all the lighter-coloured pebbles in the gravel.” Eipper ground one corner of the unusual metal rock to examine the interior and then took it home, where it sat until this year.

In late July of this year, the Prairie Meteorite Search announced a meteorite find by a Kelowna woman but the identification of nickel in the rusted metal turned out to be an invalid analysis. Renee Johnson has since been informed of the error relating to the rock she found near Prince Rupert in 1968.

“I am acutely chagrined that we made and announced this misidentification, but am consoling myself that the resulting publicity led to Rolf Eipper bringing his meteorite forward for identification and study,” said Prairie Meteorite Search director and U of C geology professor Dr. Alan Hildebrand. When Eipper saw media reports of the July announcement, he noticed that his unusual rock resembled Johnsons and contacted Hildebrand about his palm-sized, 100-gram specimen.

“Mr. Eippers rock looked very much like a weathered iron meteorite, so I visited him and cut off a small piece for study,” said Hildebrand, holder of a Canada Research Chair in Planetary Sciences. “The meteorite definitely contains nickel as we did the analysis at the University of Calgary, instead of going to a commercial lab as we did for the first time with Renee Johnsons specimen. A polished mount also showed the expected textures.” Dr. Stephen Kissin, of Lakehead University, has also studied the polished mount further exploring the meteorites mineralogy and structure, and will continue with more detailed studies.

Eippers meteorite is the fifth meteorite identified from British Columbia (and the first “find”; meteorites are classified as “falls” when the fireball is witnessed, or “finds” when it isnt seen). It is the 69th meteorite recovered in Canada, and also marks the modest milestone of 10 new meteorite discoveries for the Prairie Meteorite Search. The Prairie Search has now identified approximately 15% of all the meteorites ever found in Canada.

Adrian Karolko, the Prairie Meteorite Searcher for 2006, has returned to his studies at the University of Calgary this fall, after he spent the summer visiting communities around British Columbia to inspect unusual rocks in hopes of finding those of extraterrestrial origin.

“I was amazed at the power of the media to reach people, so they would bring their unusual rocks out for identification. It was a great summer job and chance to learn about meteorites,” Karolko said.

Both Karolko and Hildebrand encourage anyone with a rock that they think might be a meteorite to have it identified. Hildebrand says, “We have looked at the rocks of more than 4,000 people since we started in 2000, and we will happily look at the rocks of thousands more.”

The Prairie Meteorite Search for 2006 is funded by The Canadian Space Agency, Conoco Phillips Canada, and an Undergraduate Research Award from NSERC held by Adrian Karolko. The Prairie Meteorite Search is led by Hildebrand, Dr. Peter Brown from the University of Western Ontario and Dr. Martin Beech from Campion College at the University of Regina. They are all members of the Meteorites and Impacts Advisory Committee (MIAC) to the Canadian Space Agency. MIAC is Canada’s volunteer group charged with the investigation of fireballs and the recovery of meteorites.

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SpaceRef staff editor.