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California fireball produces jackpot for meteorite hunters (+video)

Meteorite hunter finds pieces of a mini-bus sized meteor that lit up in the skies above California and Nevada this week. More pieces of the meteor are expected to be found as hunters scour the area.

Loud Boom Caused by Meteor?
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Robert Ward has been hunting and collecting meteorites for more than 20 years, so he knew he'd found something special in the Sierra foothills along the path of a flaming fireball that shook parts of Northern California and Nevada with a sonic boom over the weekend.

And scientists have confirmed his suspicions: it's one of the more primitive types of space rocks out there, dating to the early formation of the solar system 4 to 5 billion years ago.

"It was just, needless to say, a thrilling moment," Ward of Prescott, Ariz., told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday as he walked through an old cemetery in search of more meteorites about 35 miles northeast of Sacramento.

He found the first piece on Tuesday along a road between a baseball field and park on the edge of Lotus near Coloma, where James W. Marshall first discovered gold in California, at Sutter's Mill in 1848.

Ward, who has found meteorites in every continent but Antarctica and goes by "AstroBob" on his website, said he "instantly knew" it was a rare meteorite known as "CM" — carbonaceous chondrite — based in part on the "fusion crusts from atmospheric entry" on one side of the rock.

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