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Re: Cumbrian meteorite..?

Hi, Stuart:

Here in Louisiana there was a bright meteor that caught a lot of
attention back in 1957; I get several questions a year about it even to
this day.  I found that tracking down accurate information on a meteor
that old can be difficult, but with a few breaks it can be done.

If nobody else on the list has information on your possible Cumbrian
meteorite, try narrowing the time frame a little.

Ask your observer if he remembers what was going on around the time of
the meteor.  Was it before or after the Apollo 11 moon landing, for
instance?  Does he remember anything that was going on in his life at
the time -- something his kids were doing, where they were in school, or
something he was doing at work?  That type of questioning may help him
be more specific than "around 30 years ago."

Contact the London Planetarium to see if they have any records about the
meteor that establish the date -- they may soometimes have visitors make
comments about it.  Even if they don't, they should be able to tell you
how to get in touch with other British planetaria, observatory visitor
centers, or museums that might be able to help (if they can't, let me
know -- I'll send you a listing of most British planetaria).

Once you narrow down the date some, check the local newspaper archives. 
Your informant said it was widely reported, and the articles would
probably give you the exact date and time along with a mention of the
places where the meteor was seen.  Even though the observations may be
nearly uselessly vague, the list of cities may give you a hint of how
widely the object was seen.  That in turn may suggest how likely it is
that the impact, if any, was indeed in Cumbria (that "hissing and
sizzling sound" is sure interesting!).

Perhaps as important as the field where he thinks it fell would be the
exact place where he stood as he watched it, particularly if he tied its
motion in with local landmarks that still exist (and have not changed). 
Just be wary of how much memory can change over 30 years!

I hope someone else on the list has better information for you, as what
I am suggesting is pretty time consuming.  On the other hand, it's
interesting and fun!  Good luck in either case.

Dave Hostetter

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