60-Second Space

Zeppelin Searches for California Meteorite

Scientists are using a zeppelin to do a slow search for signs of fragments left by the April 22nd Sutter's Mill meteorite. John Matson reports

Gold Country is now meteorite country. On May 3rd scientists inspected the northern California countryside from the air for fragments of the so-called Sutter’s Mill meteorite. The minivan-size space rock streaked through the atmosphere over the West Coast on April 22nd. Witnesses saw a visible trail in the sky in daylight.  

NASA scientists and volunteers soon recovered fragments near Sutter’s Mill, site of the beginning of the California gold rush. Some 20 pieces of the meteorite had already been found by May 3rd, but the scientists were eager to collect more. 

So they took to the skies, aboard a zeppelin operated by Airship Ventures. At 246 feet long, the helium-filled airship is 50 feet longer than the Goodyear blimp and about the same length as a 747. The zeppelin was chosen because it’s a slow, steady, low-altitude platform—ideal for scanning the ground below.  

The name of the airship, Eureka, is also the state motto of California. Fittingly enough, the word means “I have found it!” The scientists identified a few possible meteorite strikes from the zeppelin, but they'll have to go back for a closer look before it’s time to shout “Eureka.”

—John Matson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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