CHADWICK, Mo. If you were wondering if the meteor fireball seen over the Ozarks last week had any fragments make it to earth, the answer may have been provided by the a small school district just off Highway 125 in Christian County.
The Chadwick schools have security cameras on their playground, and the district's IT director got an interesting phone call this week.
"Chase, I've got a weird request," Chadwick IT Director Chase Hampton recalled when his principal got off the phone. "He told me he wanted me to look at the security camera videos to try and find shadows of a meteorite passing over us."
Sure enough, the footage showed night during to day briefly, which was an important clue for Steve Arnold, a professional meteorite hunter from Eureka Springs, Arkansas who sells meteorites on e-bay and co-hosted a TV show called "Meteorite Men" on the Discovery Channel.
He once found a 1,400-lb. meteorite in Kansas.
Working with data collected from his scientific team and the American Meteor Society, which ranked the Missouri fireball number 5 out of 4,500 events as one of the brightest in the US in years, Arnold narrowed the possible debris field down to the Chadwick area, then looked at the school's playground video and laid down a grid where the shadow was cast.
"We know the fireball didn't go over that jungle gym set or the shadows would have moved and flipped and started going the other direction," he explained of the video that shows the light casting a shadow onto the ground from just one direction, never casting a shadow back across the gym set as it would if it had passed over the playground.
"So at the end of the fireball it's almost like an ember that goes out," he continued. "And that tells us there's a bigger piece out here somewhere but it's just to the east of us and further east are gonna be smaller pieces."
Arnold says hundreds of pebble-sized meteorites are probably in an area around Goodhope and Bradleyville and that people should be on the lookout for rocks that look like they've been burned.
"You're gonna gonna be looking for the matte black," he said. "There's maybe a 5% chance that it will be glossy black. It will have about 10% metal in them so if a magnet sticks to it that's a good sign."
The news of meteorites nearby created excitement among Chadwick students as a high school sophomore class came out to watch Arnold lay down his grid on the playground.
"How often does an alien from outer space fly for millions of miles over billion of years to bring us a message and it lands in your backyard?" he asked the students.
"That is pretty cool," one student replied.
"Do you get paid if you find one of those rocks?" asked another.
"I get paid if I find one and then turn around and sell it," Arnold replied.
And that mention of money got some students out on the trail immediately.
And after one of them picked up a black object near the jungle gym and reacted with excitement, his friend nearby burst his bubble by saying, "that's a piece of rubber, Junior."
But Arnold did point out that the rubber pellet was the same color as a meteorite rock, and encouraged everyone in the area to "keep looking down."
If you find something, you can contact Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org.