A peanut-sized piece of the meteor that streaked across Wisconsin skies Wednesday night has been discovered near Livingston in the southwest corner of the state, according to UW-Madison scientists.
The existence of the meteorite - what a piece of a meteor is called after it hits the ground - is surrounded by a bit of mystery. The man who brought it to scientists at UW-Madison does not want to be identified, and the exact details of its discovery are sketchy. He did not identify himself even to university researchers.
But John Valley, a noted geochemist with the UW-Madison's Department of Geoscience, said Friday that he saw the fragment and identified it as a recently landed meteorite.
"It is, in fact, a stony meteorite," Valley said. "He heard it hit his roof."
Valley described the fragment as smooth and black. He said it was broken into two pieces when the finder brought it in and that the inside was striking - pale gray marked with bright white flecks of mineral.
"It doesn't look like what people think a meteorite should look like," Valley said. "It looks like a stone, a very ordinary stone. It's not pockmarked."
After allowing the meteorite to be photographed, the man took it with him, Valley said. Valley added that he's hoping the finder will donate it to the university for further study. Meteorites are prized by rock collectors and can be quite valuable.
Valley added that the fragment is also valuable to science. The meteorite is older than any rocks on Earth, Valley said, which would make it older than 4.6 billion years and extremely valuable for the study of everything from its origin in the solar system to the length of time it has been in outer space. UW-Madison has some of the most sensitive equipment in the world for such studies, Valley added.
The meteor from which the fragment originated caused a stir across southern Wisconsin as well as parts of Illinois and Iowa when it lit up the sky and caused a thunder-like rumble. The meteor's fall was especially impressive near Livingston, which straddles Iowa and Grant counties about 20 miles southwest of Dodgeville.
"Everybody has been talking about it since it happened," said Bob Dowr, bartender at the Alley Oops Tavern in Livingston. "It basically got light as day here. And it rumbled like a trolley car."
Valley said word of the discovery has apparently resulted in dozens of meteorite hunters heading for southwestern Wisconsin.
Ruben Garcia, a meteorite hunter known as "Mr. Meteorite" told the Wisconsin State Journal from his van Friday afternoon that he, seven other hunters and a meteorite-hunting dog named Hopper were headed for the state.
"We'll be driving until the sun goes down," Garcia said. "We'll be there in the morning."