Hunt is on for meteorite that startled South Texas residents
(CN) — NASA is urging anyone who finds strange rocks near McAllen, Texas, to contact the Smithsonian Institution after confirming a boom residents heard Wednesday was a 1,000-pound meteorite crashing to the Earth.
After examining images of an “atmospheric fireball" captured by weather satellites around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, NASA said its experts believe the object was a meteoroid about 2 feet in diameter and around 1,000 pounds.
The impact just off a highway northeast of McAllen, a city of 143,000 on the Mexico border, shook the ground and nearby homes and startled residents, many of whom called 911 and reported they had heard an explosion.
Despite the shockwaves, there have been no reports of property damage or injuries.
The odds of a meteorite striking a home or person in the United States are very small but not null.
“Small asteroids enter the atmosphere above the continental United States once or twice a year on average and often deliver meteorites to the ground,” NASA said in a statement.
According to the space agency and astronomers, meteorites hit the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds—7 to 45 miles per second—but matter in the atmosphere creates friction that slows them and causes them to disintegrate, with the smaller pieces burning up, releasing streaks of light.
While South Texas law enforcement officials say they don’t yet know where the meteorite landed, they warned anyone who finds it not to touch it.
But NASA said there is no need for concern.
“Meteorites cool rapidly and generally are not a risk to the public,” NASA said, noting it does not collect them. Instead, they are curated by the Smithsonian Institute and other academic and scientific institutions around the country.
It advised anyone who believes they have found a fragment to contact the Smithsonian, which instructs people to email photos of the specimens.