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Update: Meteorite Wasn't What Hit Pastor's House

Updated Oct. 23: A NASA-affiliated scientist says the golfball-sized rock that struck a Novato pastor's home didn't come from a meteor after all.

Updated 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23: Please see "North Bay "Meteorite" Was Misidentified: It's Just a Rock"

Earlier:

A golfball-sized rock that struck a Novato house Thursday night is the first confirmed piece from the meteor shower that has taken place over the Bay Area sky in the past few days, according to a NASA-affiliated astronomer.

And, in a poetic coincidence, the little piece of heaven happened to hit a pastor's house.

Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute in Mountain View held the 2.2-ounce meteorite Sunday morning while facing TV cameras in front of the home of Rev. Kent and Lisa Webber, who live on St. Francis Avenue in Novato's Pleasant Valley neighborhood.

"It's wonderful and very interesting to think this might be billions of years old," Rev. Webber said during a break from his Sunday duties at the Presbyterian Church of Novato. "Maybe God's trying to get our attention. I'm not sure what God is trying to say, and I'm not sure how to interpret it."

Lisa Webber, head nurse in the University of San Francisco's medical dermatology department, said she has a hard time believing the piece she picked up on her side yard turned out to be a meteorite. She was at home Oct. 17 enduring a rainout of the San Francisco Giants' playoff game in St. Louis and listening to NPR when she heard a boom outside followed by what sounded like something rolling on the roof.

"I thought 'There's something like a rat or a raccoon in my garage or something,'" she said. 

She walked into the garage and outside but didn't see anything amiss. It wasn't until after work on Friday that she noticed a newspaper story about the meteor shower and its projected pattern directly over Novato.

"That's when I saw, 'Oh my gosh, I might have a little meteor chunk outside in the yard.'"

Home alone at the time, she made a visual check of the roof and the recently cleaned gutters but didn't find anything, so she started walking around the perimeter of the house. She picked up an odd-looking rock near her side gate and brought it in the house. Her neighbors, Luis Rivera and his wife Leigh Blair, also were not home, but their 23-year-old son, Glenn, was home. He recalled from a Discovery Channel show that pieces of meteor should be magnetic.

"So I go find a magnet and it sticks to it, and we both go, 'Whoa!'" she said.

At that point she contacted Jenniskens, who was on the hunt for meteor chunks along with other scientists from the Carl Sagan Center of the Study of Life in the Universe. Luis Rivera climbed onto the Webbers' roof Saturday and found a divot identical in size to the meteorite.

Jenniskens confirmed the gray rock was a piece of meteor Sunday morning.

Streaks of exploding, disintegrating material have been visible all over Northern California since Oct. 17, and there were many reports of loud booms heard. Astronomers have said it is part of the Orionid meteor shower, named after Orion constellation. The Orion meteors are space debris from Halley's Comet, visible as the earth crosses through their trails, Jenniskens said.

Click the "Keep me posted" button for updates on this story. For more about meteor showers in 2012, please see:

  • Meteor the Size of a Car Hits Bay Area
  • Did You See or Hear the Meteor?
  • How to Watch the Orionids Meteor Shower 2012

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Rachael Clark October 21, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Way cool! Do they donate it to Science or do they get offered money for it? A follow up story would be nice.
James Beauchamp October 22, 2012 at 02:26 AM
It WAS NOT an Orionid! The direction of travel did not come from the Orionid radiant. It was most likely a sporadic meteoroid. They are common. Just not common over populated areas. I highly doubt an astronomer told you that.
Louisa Hufstader October 24, 2012 at 02:40 AM
It wasn't a meteorite, either, according to the expert who originally said it was: http://napavalley.patch.com/articles/north-bay-meteorite-was-misidentified-it-s-just-a-rock

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