Space Rocks

Look: Explosive fireball leaves behind meteorites in Mississippi

Collectors and scientists alike are relishing the finds.

On the morning of April 27, residents in a handful of southern states in the U.S. saw a bright flash of light and heard thunderous booms in the air.

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A fireball was falling to Earth and eventually exploded over Mississippi, raining down fragments of space rock.

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This is only the fifth time meteorites have fallen to the ground in Mississippi.

The last recorded fireball to land in the state was in the 1950s.

It landed just outside of Natchez, seen in blue.

NOAA

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At its peak, the fireball was 10 times brighter than the Full Moon, according to a post on NASA’s Meteor Watch Facebook page.

Relatively few eyewitnesses saw the bright rock, but pieces of it have already been recovered by several people.

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Roberto Vargas and Matthew Stream found these fragments.

Roberto Vargas and Matthew Stream

Linda Welzenbach Fries

Linda Welzenbach-Fries, a planetary scientist and science writer for Rice University, found the first piece of meteorite near a road in Natchez.

Along with her husband Marc Fries, a planetary scientist for NASA, she drove five and a half hours from her home in Texas to hunt for fragments.

Here’s one of the pieces they found.

Linda Welzenbach Fries

Linda Welzenbach Fries

It was an exciting day, Welzenbach-Fries tells Inverse — and also the first time her husband was able to find meteorites on the ground after an impact.

“It was all smiles and suddenly two scientists that didn’t know where to start,” she says. “It was pretty funny.”

Matthew Stream, courtesy of Linda Welzenbach Fries

The couple plan to study their findings along with other researchers in order to better understand the origins and makeup of the meteorite.

Linda Welzenbach Fries

Linda Welzenbach Fries

For Welzenbach-Fries, who was formerly the Smithsonian’s meteorite collection manager, an appreciation for wayward space rocks is second nature.

“Each and every one is worth finding,” she says.

“Every one is special — not the least of which is the fact that it was residing in space just a couple days ago and represents the earliest history of our Solar System.”

Linda Welzenbach Fries, to Inverse

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