Discovery marks the first witnessed fall of a meteorite in Alberta in 40 years, U of A says.
Doug Olson heard a loud thud on his roof while folding laundry in October last year. When he went out to investigate the cause of the sound, he didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.
But earlier this spring, while cleaning out his rain gutters on the roof of his Mill Woods home, Olson discovered a small grey and black rock.
Turns out, the rock is a meteorite from space.
“I was thinking, ‘jeez how come I couldn’t find it back when I was looking the first time?'” Olson said on Friday.
Named the Menisa, the discovery marks the first witnessed fall of a meteorite in Alberta since 1977, and one of only 18 ever found in the province, according to the University of Alberta.
This isn’t the first time Olson went looking for meteorites. He’s been in contact with the University of Alberta’s department of earth and atmospheric sciences since he found what he believes is another meteorite in Fort McMurray years prior.
“People call me the meteorite guy at the coffee shop,” Olson said.
The pebble-sized meteorite weighs 33 grams, and it contains metal made of iron and nickel.
The rest is made of a grey material called chondrule, typically found in meteorites made of other minerals, according to Chris Herd, a meteorite expert at the University of Alberta.
Herd says asteroid bits and pieces fall from space frequently but this meteorite is rare.
“There’s a bunch of stuff that’s making its way around the solar system all the time, different sizes. We think we know where the biggest stuff is that might threaten us. The small stuff is a complete surprise,” Herd said.
“It’s just luck that it happened in this way.”
A piece of the rock is now part of the University of Alberta’s meteorite collection, the largest university-based collection in Canada, according to a news release Friday.
Olson was allowed to keep the rest of the meteorite.
Herd says Alberta’s clear skies and large amount of farm and ranching land increase the chances of meteorites being found on the ground.
“We have lots of open spaces and we’re also more northern, so it sort of increases the chances of meteorites being found on the ground on open fields,” Herd said.
There have been cases where farmers have found them in their fields, said Herd.
“It kind of has to do with land use and luck in a lot of ways.”
The Menisa meteorite is not on display yet at the university, but it will be soon, said Herd.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nishat Chowdhury is a reporter based in Edmonton. She is a 2023 CBC Joan Donaldson Scholar and has previously worked as a reporter and producer for CBC New Brunswick and CBC Toronto. She graduated with a bachelor’s of journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University in June 2023. You can reach her at email@example.com
With files from Travis McEwan
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