Sutter’s Mill meteorite tally at nearly 60; auroras possible tonight

Venus and El Nath are reflected in a puddle in the neighborhood last night. Details: 35mm lens at ISO 800 and 15-second exposure. Photo: Bob King

Nothing but clouds since May began until last night, when the sky cleared for an hour during twilight. It was wonderful to see Venus again and its close “companion”, the star El Nath in Taurus. One benefit of the frequent rain and clouds is a proliferation of puddles, one of which caught Venus and cast it back at me.

Two sunspot groups currently busy producing flares are regions 1476 and 1471. Photo taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory this morning. Credit: NASA

Looks like there’s chance for auroras anywhere from around midnight tonight through tomorrow afternoon Central time for the northern U.S. and Canada. The stimulus for this round comes from a coronal mass ejection shot our way on May 7 by sunspot group 1471, which will soon depart the disk.

Meanwhile the much bigger, more active group 1476 continues to produce significant flares, though none are Earth-directed yet. Here’s the latest NOAA magnetic storm forecast.

The current "main mass" of the Sutter's Mill meteorite - a 35.1g rock found over the weekend by Mitch Carey. Click photo to see a detailed tally of all pieces found to date. Credit: Mitch Carey

Over the past two weeks, meteorite hunters in California have sent photos my way of what they thought might be meteorites from the April 22 fireball. Some of them are clearly not meteorites, while with others it’s to say for certain without a “live” inspection. Not so with the pictures Mitch Carey took of a 35.1 gram beautiful, unbroken specimen he found while spraying for poison oak on his land near Lotus. You can even see dirt on one side from the impact.

Meteorite drop zone map or strewnfield marked with the locations and weights of meteorites found so far. The labeling scheme is based on Peter Jenniskens site (see below). Click map to enlarge. Thanks and credit to Marc Fries and his radarmeteorites site

I contacted a couple well-known meteorite hunters in the area and Mitch’s find was soon confirmed as the real thing.  What’s more, it’s the largest piece or “main mass” of Sutter’s Mill (provisional name) found to date. He’s currently taking offers on the piece.

No word yet on whether NASA researchers have found any meteorites from their ride aboard the zeppelin. More flights are underway. About 60 meteorites weighing 364 grams (0.8 lb) have been found to date.

For regular updates on new finds and their locations in the Sutter’s Mill strewnfield, make sure you visit meteorite hunter Jim Wooddell’s Meteorite Strewn Field for Lotus / Coloma area page.

If you’re out hunting and find a meteorite from this fall, please take the proper care to keep it clean, especially if you want to submit it for scientific analysis. That means not handling it with your bare hands and keeping it away from high humidity and plastics. For more on proper handling, see NASA researcher Peter Jenniskens’ guide near the end of his Sutter’s Mill page.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

3 thoughts on “Sutter’s Mill meteorite tally at nearly 60; auroras possible tonight

  1. Astro Bob: I’m an amateur prospector here in Washington State and I found a rock that is, to my eye, identical to that found by Mitch Carey at Sutter’s Mill. Side-by-side they’d be very difficult to tell apart. I’ve never seen anything else like it. How do I go about figuring out if it is a meteorite? I’d be happy to send you a couple of photos. Thanks in advance for your help.

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