When Lisa Webber of Novato heard a "boom-badda-boom" in her kitchen two years ago, she had no idea that a golfball-sized meteorite more than 4.5 billion years old had just hit her roof.
Now, after two years of analysis, an international consortium of more than 52 meteorite experts believes that Webber's find -- dubbed the "Novato meteorite" -- was hit by debris from a crash between the Earth and another large body that created the moon billions of years before glancing off Webber's roof.
"We now suspect that the moon-forming impact may have scattered debris all over the inner solar system and hit the parent body of the Novato meteorite," Qing-zhu Yin, a geochemistry professor at the University of California at Davis, said in one of two reports from the consortium published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
The 2-ounce, blackened metallic chondrite and others like it rained down on the North Bay in a meteor shower Oct. 17, 2012. Webber found the space rock in the side yard of her home on St. Francis Avenue in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood the day after it fell. Five others were later tracked down nearby and in Sonoma County by meteor hunters.
Peter Jenniskens, a NASA-affiliated scientist at the Seti Institute in Mountain View, led the research consortium and worked with Webber after the discovery. He had determined the trajectory of the meteorite over Novato using NASA's Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance, a network of cameras and telescopes. Jenniskens then put out a call to the public to keep an eye out for meteorites, and Webber responded.
"For us, Novato was a gift from heaven," Jenniskens said Tuesday with a chuckle. "It came to us in such a pristine form and we had all these scientists lined up."
By "pristine," Jenniskens was referring to the fact that "Novato," as he and his colleagues often refer to the meteorite, was found almost immediately instead of lying on the ground and being rained on for months or years. Also, Jenniskens had already convened a group of colleagues to study a meteorite found April 22, 2012 at Sutter's Mill.
Jenniskens' remark is doubly humorous because Lisa Webber's husband Kent is a pastor. Lisa Webber is a nurse at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. The Webbers were not available for comment Tuesday.
"One hundred million years after the formation of the solar system there was one event that stood out as far as collisions, and that is the formation of our moon," Jenniskens said. "The earth had a big collision with something the size of Mars and there was a big splash and a lot of debris got ejected and some other debris continued to go around the Earth and from that our moon was formed.
"The debris that got ejected ended up hitting everything that was around. We think now Novato got its black appearance from being hit by debris from the impact," Jenniskens said.
Initially, "I was sitting in my kitchen and I heard this boom-badda-boom. Something hit my house," Lisa Webber told the Independent Journal in 2012. Upon learning that the meteorite shower trajectory was above Novato, she went outside the next day to investigate.
When Webber found the rock, she woke Glenn Rivera, a next-door neighbor, to help her see if it really was a meteorite.
"I knocked on my neighbor's door and woke up their son, who is very smart, a science guy," she said. "We got a magnet and it (the rock) stuck to it, and we got a scale and weighed it. I contacted Peter (Jenniskens), and he said, 'I'm going to come up there.'"
As thanks for his help and because Oct. 17 is his birthday, Lisa Webber gave the space rock to Rivera. The young man in turn donated it to the Seti Institute for study.
"We are coming up on the two-year anniversary (of the find) in October and it's incredible to see the impact this continues to make on the scientific community," said Rivera, 24, who graduated from University of Southern California in 2011 and is applying to graduate schools.
"I love that the (research) paper came out and people can read about this extraordinary rock. I keep it on my bedside table," said Rivera. "The Seti Institute and other researchers initially cracked it into three pieces and I took one-third and the other two-thirds were sent all over the world for study. Some of it's in Los Angeles. I've been meteorite hunting because I know there are more pieces in the area," he said.
"Keep your eye out for meteorites," Jenniskens said. "It was very exciting to look at a freshly formed meteorite. All these studies have traced a long history of the Novato meteorite, a history that helps us understand how these meteorites break up in the atmosphere and where they are coming from," Jenniskens said.
To get a look at a meteorite, visit cams.seti.org. Jenniskens can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. ------ (c)2014 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) Visit The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) at www.marinij.com Distributed by MCT Information Services