Daytime Fireball Witnessed in Texas
On February 15, 2009, at 11:03 am, a large, daytime fireball was witnessed by Texans from Austin to Fort Worth. Massive sonic booms were reported, and the falling stones were captured in multiple Doppler radar images.
I was at the Tucson gem and mineral show when the fireball occurred. The following morning, I flew to Texas and arrived at the location under the Doppler images that evening.
Tracking the Meteorite
The following day I began interviewing farmers in the area. It wasn’t long before I spoke with an old man at a feedlot. He looked me up and down for a minute and then barked “Hell, I know exactly where the meteor came down, my son was almost hit by one!” After listening to his recollection of events and description of a stone that landed near his son’s feet, I was sure that I had found the lead I was searching for.
I followed him back to his farm house where I ran into several of my Russian colleagues who were already hunting in a nearby field. I called Mike Farmer and Moritz Karl, who soon arrived with a news crew in tow. The farmers became agitated at all of the commotion and demanded that we leave the property, and as Moritz and Mike walked back to their vehicle, Moritz found a small stone on the edge of the road.
We soon received permission to hunt the properties of several farmers and landowners in the area, and within days we had all found small stones. Some landowners were a bit skeptical of strangers looking for rocks from outer space on their property. One farmer in particular, named John, looked me up and down when I arrived, focusing in on my black Stetson. He said, “Why you wear that black hat, boy? Only outlaws wear black hats!” At the time, I considered what I thought was his poker face to be part of the joke. After running into this assumption several more times, however, I learned it was not a joke but rather a tradition deeply rooted in Texas lore. Good guys only wear white hats in Texas, apparently!
Hunting Begins to Get Difficult
fter having a number of finds under my belt, I began to work my way down the flight path towards larger stones. One area in particular yielded a number of significant finds. I found one large stone that had punched into Bermuda grass and was several inches below ground level. I was fortunate enough to walk directly over the stone, or it would have never been found.
Obtaining hunting permission from local farmers was hit-and-miss. One family accused me of casing their home: “How do we know you aren’t going to come back when we’re not here and rob us blind?” I mentioned the fact that my picture was on the front page of every newspaper in the state, and that they also had my business card, but the husband replied, “Anybody could print up cards, shirts, and hats. How do we know you are who you say you are?”
It became it a lost cause at that point. After considering some of the urban legends that have sprung up from this particular area of Texas, I guess it is not unreasonable to be a bit paranoid of strangers. West, Texas, is where the murders occurred that inspired The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the massacre at the Branch Davidian complex in Waco continues to haunt the locals. I was nearly shot at one point, after having mistaken a large, white estate for a mortuary that I had been directed to.
Returning to Arizona
After several weeks of hunting, I returned to Arizona with my finds. A week later, I returned to Texas with close friend and hunting partner Dave Gheesling to make two more finds.
The Ash Creek hunt was an interesting immersion into a unique niche of American culture – a very memorable meteorite hunt not far from my own backyard. The Ash Creek fall stands as the first of many meteorites to be recovered using the Doppler radar technique.
IT WAS CLASSIFIED AS AN L6 ORDINARY CHONDRITE.