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Meteorite Hunters Hit The Ground To Find Their Treasure

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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m20120201 195706 hawley tx pcp Meteorite Hunters Hit The Ground To Find Their Treasure

An 'electrophonic' meteor passed across the North Texas sky Wednesday night. Photographer Kevin Palivec captured this image from a remote camera in Hawley, Texas, near Abilene (Credit: Kevin Palivec)

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Thousands saw and heard the bright meteor streak across the night sky Wednesday before culminating in a loud sonic boom.

Now the hunt is on to find it.

“We think the meteor flew right over Forney and was pretty much aimed towards Quitman,” said McCartney Taylor, spokesman at the Texas Meteorite Laboratory of Austin.

Taylor has tracked meteorites across four continents. They’re scorched on the outside and mostly made of iron, so they’re attracted to magnets. And while technology has helped ease the search process, flawed data dogs this hunt.

So he’s returning to those tried-and-true methods he used while cutting his teeth.

“At this point, we’re having to rely on the old-fashioned way of doing interviews and doing footwork,” Taylor said.

So he went to a local firehouse and asked its lieutenant what he’d seen.

“Did you or any of your guys witness it?” He asked Lt. David Rutherford.

“We had a couple guys witness it that live out in Quinlan across from the high school,” Rutherford answered.

Information culled from this sort of on-the-ground crowdsourcing has led Taylor to believe that the meteor was the size of a bus when it entered the earth’s atmosphere. It then screamed over Oklahoma and Texas.

Police dash cam footage in Haltom City and Little River-Academy near Waco caught the streaking otherworldly traveler. Hundreds heard it as it eventually slowed to the speed of sound.

To find specifics, Taylor relies on witnesses like Lake Tawakoni State Park host Chris Pope.

“And it wasn’t just one boom,it was a little – it, like, went, ‘boom,’ then ‘boom-boom,’” the Hunt County park host said. “We heard the noise, but we didn’t actually know what it was until the next morning when we saw it on the news.”

Hearing more than one ‘boom’ tells Taylor that the meteor was breaking up into pieces, each of which presumably made their own sonic booms.

He figures the largest portion of the meteor will be about the size of a basketball –– if it turns up.

“It very much looks like it probably fell in rural country, so it may take a long time for someone to find,” Taylor said.

Fredericksburg resident Stephen Thompson is a first-time amateur meteor hunter who is assisting Taylor. But as a commercial pilot, he’s seen a meteor up close.

“The inside of the cockpit is a bright green,” he said, describing the scene. I “looked across the right window of the cockpit and just the most beautiful fireball seemed to be flying formation with us.”

Thompson admits it: He’s hooked.

Taylor calls himself a hobbyist, but does sell his finds for scientific research. He said meteorites are a poor man’s space probe.

And he is offering a reward to anyone who finds a legitimate meteorite from this event. For a genuine article, Taylor promises he’ll pay $3 a gram up to $1,500 – that’d be about the size of a man’s fist.

If you have a lead, call Taylor at the Texas Meteorite Laboratory at 512.773.7811. You can also email him at mccartney@blackbeardata.com.

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