On September 26th at around 12:04 AM EDT, a meteorite burst into flames above Junction City, Georgia, and scattered pieces near the small town in Talbot County.
At that time, the meteor was captured by a camera operated by Dr. Ed Albin, a planetary astronomer. Dr. Albin and meteorite hunters Pat Branch and Carl Dietrich determined the location of the impact after watching the video capture and analyzing radar data.
Upon arriving at the scene, they spotted a small crater on the road and promptly searched the area for any fragments. All three hunters found shards of the meteorite, the second largest of which was collected by Dietrich and weighed in at 219 grams (approx. 7.7 ounces). “I got lucky,” said Dietrich, who wanted it displayed in a Georgia museum. The fragment was then acquired by Tellus Science Museum.
“This is very exciting, because finding a meteorite soon after it falls is a very rare occasion, and it fell here in Georgia,” said Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria. “And to think—this rock was in space a little over three weeks ago.”
The 219-gram chunk has been tentatively identified as a chondrite, more commonly known as a stony meteorite, and further classification by scientists is underway.
So far, about a dozen fragments have been found around the Junction City Meteorite’s impact crater by meteorite hunters all across the country.
“I’m sure there are many pieces still to be found,” said Dr. Albin. “It was estimated that the meteor coming through our atmosphere was maybe the size of a washing machine or a small refrigerator.”
The Junction City Meteorite is currently the 27th to land in Georgia since the 1820s, the 6th witnessed to fall in the state, and the 11th Georgia meteorite in Tellus Science Museum’s collection.
In May 2019, Greg Ivey and his grandchildren found a 5.5-pound space rock in Keysville, Georgia, confirmed by the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University as a meteorite. Before that, a meteorite was found in Cartersville in 2009 after it crashed through the roof of an empty home.
“It’s difficult to find meteorites around the world, and in climates like Georgia, it’s particularly challenging,” said Chris Thompson, president of the Meteorite Association of Georgia. “Places like Georgia where you’ve got rainfall, forests, challenging environments to hunt. It’s very atypical to find a meteorite there unless it actually falls out of the sky and someone sees it or it hits something man made.”
Thompson added that while meteorites falling to Earth is not an uncommon occurrence, finding a salvageable space rock is a statistical rarity. “Literally tons of meteorite material falls on the Earth every single day, but most of it is in the form of interstellar dust and most of it falls on the water because the Earth’s surface is three-quarters water,” said Thompson. “Much of what falls on the Earth will never be found. It’s either much too small or falls in the water and can’t be recovered.”
Regarding the Junction City Meteorite, Tellus Curator Ryan Roney said, “I am thrilled that Tellus Science Museum is able to further preserve Georgia’s meteoritic heritage with the acquisition of this specimen.”