Recently published research describes a collection of meteorite pieces that landed in California in April. The study came about through a group effort dubbed "crowdsourcing" by the lead scientist.
"It was done very quickly," said Peter Jenniskens, a meteor researcher who suddenly found himself managing a small army of volunteers when the Sutter's Mill meteor broke up April 22.
Dozens of scientists jumped to Jenniskens' aid as he searched for meteorite fragments. But less publicized will be the volunteers who phoned in reports of meteorites, or sent in pictures and video of the fireball by e-mail.
Jenniskens' team commandeered an airship to search for fragments. Meanwhile, the team caught a lucky break — Doppler radar information from nearby weather stations showed the track of the meteorite. Adding this data to the pictures and video sent in by volunteers, the scientists could reconstruct the impacting asteroid's early history. [Photos: Fireball Drops Meteorites On California]
According to Jenniskens, the paper, to be published Friday (Dec. 21) in the journal Science, was made possible by the mass crowdsourcing effort that enabled a large amount of data to be collected in a short time.
"It's all very important, and it's fantastic how this came together," said Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). "For me, it was personally very exciting."