Hillsboro meteorite hunter is a rock star
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
By Kurt Eckert
The Hillsboro Argus
A Hillsboro meteorite hunter was able to grab the biggest piece of rock that fell to the earth after a fireball streaked across the Midwest April 14, landing in Wisconsin .
Rob Wesel, a 1989 Glencoe High School graduate, is a member of a small team of people from around the world who dash out to reports of fireballs in the hopes of recovering meteorites, surviving fragments of disintegrating, fiery meteors that plunge through the Earth's atmosphere. Less than 48 hours after the fireball was sighted, Wesel was on a plane out east.
Wesel , accompanied by his friend and fellow Glencoe grad, David Hess of Aloha, said they nearly fell over the largest piece of the meteorite found to date, weighing in at 219 grams.
"I was fortunate enough to recover not only the nicest example but, to date, the largest one," Wesel said.
Wesel said about 20 or 30 people, usually the same folks every time, show up within days, and begin surveying the area and seeking permission from landowners.
By necessity, teams form and it becomes a bit of a competition, Wesel said.
This time, the meteorites were spread across farmland outside Livingston , Wis. , a small village of about 600.
The hunters comb the area with magnets mounted on long sticks and poles, descended within hours on the area around the reported strike, looking for pieces of blackened rock.
The found rocks are verifiable because of their lack of oxidation. In space, where there is no oxygen, rust does not happen.
Wesel, 39, who is married and works as a registered nurse, said he became interested in meteorites when he saw one for sale at a science museum, and his collecting hobby began in earnest after receiving one as a Christmas gift.
Not satisfied with gifts and sales, he became a hunter. He reportedly has spent as much as $2,000 on last minute flights to meteorite sites.
The Midwest fireball, also known as a bolide, burst across the sky over Missouri , Iowa , Minnesota , Illinois and Wisconsin shortly after 10 p.m. April 14.