[meteorite-list] Easton noting meteorite anniversary

From: Mike Groetz <mpg444_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2007 09:44:25 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <598724.73453.qm_at_web32910.mail.mud.yahoo.com>


Easton noting meteorite anniversary

TONY SPINELLI tspinelli at ctpost.com
Connecticut Post Online
Article Launched:04/21/2007 11:13:04 PM EDT
It's a 28-pound rock, colored gray and brown, the kind
you might stumble across on a hike through an old New
England quarry.
But there's a lot of historical significance to the
chunk of stone, which was plucked from an Easton field
in this rural town and placed on permanent display at
the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale
University in New Haven.

It is believed to be the first recorded meteorite to
hit the United States. The find was so earth-shaking
at the time that President Thomas Jefferson was

Members of the Easton Historical Society have been
thinking about the stone a lot these days, because
Dec. 14 will mark the 200th anniversary of when it
blazed out of the northern sky in the pre-dawn hours
and exploded over Easton. The historical society is
planning a reception in honor of the anniversary for
the fall. There will also be a visit to an
observatory, said Lynne Geane, president of the

"We are very excited about this," Geane said last
week, before a visit to the museum to take another
look at the stone and, perhaps, get permission to
borrow it.

The rock is on exhibit with a number of other
meteorites, said Barbara Narenda, archivist of
meteorites at the museum.

It is called the "Weston Meteorite," because Easton
was a part of Weston at the time.

Technically, the meteorite is called a chondrite,
meaning that it contains chondrules, microscopic to
marble-sized spherical globs of silicates from the
earliest solar nebula, sometimes pre-dating even
planetary formation, according to the Web site

"It's not the first meteorite to hit the United
States, but it is the first to be recorded," Narenda

In 1807, when the meteorite struck, the local
population was limited to a couple of hundred
farmsteads separated by stone walls, streams, and
woods, said Frank Pagliaro, a member of the research
committee for the historical society.

At the time, two professors from Yale, Benjamin
Silliman and James L. Kingsley, immediately went to
investigate. They found what they were looking for in
a field. The rock they found 200 years ago is the one
that remains on display.

When Jefferson, who was president at the time, heard
the story, he was skeptical. It is rumored he said, "I
would more easily believe that two Yankee professors
would lie than that stones would fall from heaven."
Another story version of story has Jefferson saying
the find was "all a lie." What is known is that
Jefferson ordered a new investigation of the story,
which supported the Yale professors' findings.

While fewer than 10 softball-sized meteorites were
found, Pagliaro said, it is possible that Easton's
fields and woods contain more samples.

"This spring, as you are turning over the soil in your
garden or field, keep an eye out for rocks that look
unlike any of those that make up Easton's many stone
walls. These stony meteorites have a black, cracked
surface like old leather and a granular interior,"
Pagliaro wrote in a letter to society members.

The meteorites are 17 to 20 percent iron, which
oxidizes like an old gate and gives the rocks a rust
color. The iron content also makes them heavier than
they appear to be for their size.

"Think of one in your hands as the weight of history,"
he said.

The streaking fireball was a light show to behold in
the days before there were such things as electric
lights. The metorite was seen speeding across the sky
in Vermont and Massachusetts. Moments after it
vanished over Easton, Pagliaro said the quiet morning
air was shattered by several thunderous booms.

Within seconds, the showers of stones fell from the
sky over an area 10 miles long and four miles wide.
The area of falling stones stretched from the Stepney
area of Monroe to the southern part of Sport Hill Road
in Easton.

That's a lot of rock. And it's a unique claim to fame
for a town that many people from out-of-town think of
only as a place to buy farm-cut Christmas trees,
festive wreaths and orchard apples.

"We want to get the word out about this," Geane said.
Tony Spinelli, who covers Monroe and Easton, can be
reached at330-6361.

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Received on Mon 23 Apr 2007 12:44:25 PM PDT

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