Rocks being offered for sale online
© Lana Haight
This photo shows rocks purported to be from a meteor that flashed across the Saskatchewan sky this week.
A man claims to have found the first known meteorites from a fireball that lit up the sky over Saskatchewan and Alberta Tuesday night.
A posting on Kijiji shows two roundish and blackened rocks a man says he found on the side of a highway north of Rockhaven. One of the rocks is listed for sale for an unspecified price and the other rock is shown suspended by a magnet.
Now geologists and astronomers who study meteorites are trying to get in touch with the man in an attempt to verify whether the rocks are connected to Tuesday's meteor sighting, which rattled houses as it zoomed over North Battleford.
Richard Huziak, a Saskatoon amateur astronomer and member of the Prairie Fireball Network, says the rocks in the picture look like chondrites, which match meteorites found after the Buzzard Coulee meteor crashed in central Saskatchewan in 2008.
Several researchers are trying to get in touch with the man - unsuccessfully, so far - in an effort to bring the rocks to the University of Saskatchewan for examination and testing.
"Until they're presented, it's hard to know what fall they came from," Huziak said. They may well be meteorites, he said, but ones that fell years ago.
U of S geologist Mel Stauffer is also trying to get in touch with the man in an effort to check the rocks' authenticity. "The photograph he posted on Kijiji looks to be of a meteorite," Stauffer said in an email.
University of Calgary geoscientist Alan Hildebrand, who co-ordinates the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre, said anyone who has found a meteorite and wants to sell it would be wise to have experts identify it first. Some meteorites are more rare - and therefore far more valuable - than others.
"We have foolproof ways of telling if it's a recent fall or not," Hildebrand added.
When contacted by The StarPhoenix
, the man behind the Kijiji ad was not willing to have his name or photograph in the paper.
Faye Rowat, one of a handful of residents in the tiny settlement of Rockhaven, said there have been a few people out searching the area since Tuesday's fireball. On Friday morning, she was about to head out with some magnets and her two grandsons, the youngest of which was enthused about the chance of coming across a space rock.
"It's a free gift from the asteroid belt," Huziak said. "We can build spaceships for a hundred million dollars and go out and get pieces. Or they can just fall to the Earth and we can pick them up. Each rock tells you a bit more about the origin of the solar system and they all date back to the age of the formation of the Earth, or even before that."
Both Huziak and Hildebrand said several new videos have surfaced in the past couple of days that are allowing them to narrow down the location of the so-called "strewn field" where pieces fell, which they say is likely south of Rockhaven. The hamlet is about 190 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
Huziak said several explosions are visible in the video footage, suggesting pieces broke off the meteor higher up and may have survived the fall to Earth.
Security camera footage from the Corman Air Park shows an intensely bright greenish ball that appears for just a second, hurtling towards the ground, leaving a brief trail of yellow sparks in its wake.
Hildebrand said he wants to see more footage of that night from different locations, including cameras that were pointed at the ground and captured flashes of light and objects' shadows. More footage from different angles could help them narrow the crash site down to a dozen square kilometres and would result in a more fruitful meteorite search, he said.
"We're not there yet." Would-be rock hunters should also know there's an etiquette to abide by. You can legally remove a rock you find on public land, but a meteorite sitting in a farmer's field belongs to him and if you remove it without permission, you are trespassing, Huziak said.
On Thursday, one aspiring meteorite hunter put out a call on Lloydminster's Kijiji page looking for Rockhavenarea landowners' permission to search on their property. "Will pay for access & split 50/50," the post says.
Huziak hopes people in the Rockhaven area are keeping an eye out for blackened rocks, which should be easily spotted on frozen ponds and against the backdrop of snow.
"It's good for everyone to be out looking, because if there's a serendipitous discovery, we all benefit from it," he said.
Sadly for meteorite hunters, this weekend's weather outlook is not favourable - a storm warning with five to 10 centimetres of snow, wind gusting to 70 kilometres an hour and poor visibility is forecast for Saturday.