Meteor hunter searches for space rocks on Chopper 5

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah – When a ball of fire erupted in the sky above the Wasatch Front on August 13, meteor hunters immediately began plotting a route to Utah in hopes of finding remnants of the space rock .

Recently Sonny Clary – a man credited with finding some of the first parts – took KSL Chopper 5 to the area for a new look.

“You may have started something! Clary joked as she took an aerial view of the front seat from Chopper 5, noting that the tour was a good way to “exclude” areas.

Spotting pieces of space rock is never easy, but Clary noted that the white surface of the desert made it a bit easier to identify possible pieces of meteorite.

Yet appearances from a distance can be deceiving. One spot that looked interesting from the helicopter at one point turned out to be a bunch of logs.

“It’s nothing,” he admitted. “But it’s an ideal surface, guys. It’s like I could come back here tomorrow.

Clary had already narrowed down her search areas using Doppler weather radar imagery to determine where fragments of the meteorite might have landed.

“Out of the returns, with the wind drifts, it’s going to be a great place where we are right now,” Clary said.

Clary has over two decades of trial and error experience.

“It’s a passion that I acquired about 20, 25 years ago,” he said in an interview with KSL TV. “Then the adventure began. Two months later, I found my first meteorite in a known meteorite field, Gold Basin.

Clary said he hunts all fireballs, or “at least the good ones”.

“Since then, I’ve built my collection to hundreds of pieces,” Clary said.

He said when he learned of the fireball in Utah, he sprang into action with a travel plan.

“I spoke to my wife – ‘I want to go.’ And she says, ‘Okay.’ And (I was) on the road an hour later, Clary shrugged.

There is competition. As Clary flew in Chopper 5, he spotted at least two other groups that he believed might also be searching for meteorite fragments.

Clary landed in an area to inspect some rocks. Finally, that day, he came empty-handed.

“Sometimes you’re skunky, but that’s part of the game,” he said.

On a subsequent trip, he told KSL he found another larger piece – one he said weighed 781 grams.

His hope was that scientists could determine the composition of the meteorite based on some of his findings.

“For me to be able to say, ‘Hey, I found it. This is the first play. It’s going to college to be studied’ – it’s like I won,” Clary said.

Win or lose, Clary said the journey itself drives him.

“It’s the outdoor adventure, meeting the people, and then finding that space rock and knowing that some of it goes into your collection where no one else has,” Clary said. “What a great hobby! You go out, explore, spend time outdoors.

About John Crowder

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