No ordinary rock

Meteorite from July 27 fireball lands in Glendale man’s front yard
By: 
CARY HINES, Assistant editor

Photo by Shivani Patel
Glendale resident Cody Horvath, left, stands next to Robert Ward of Prescott while holding a meteorite he found Aug. 14 in his front yard. Ward, who has one of the largest private collections of meteorites in the world, authenticated the meteorite and purchased it.

Photo courtesy Cody Horvath
A chondrite meteorite found by Cody Horvath Aug. 14 in his Glendale front yard is now part of Prescott resident Robert Ward’s private collection.

Photo by Cody Horvath
Arizona State University researchers photograph a meteorite found Aug. 14 in Cody Horvath’s Glendale front yard.

“I didn’t know it was a rare thing to find a meteorite in general and a rarer thing to find a meteorite that had just fallen.” — Cody Horvath, Glendale resident

“It’s just a rock.”

That’s what Cody Horvath’s wife kept telling him as he examined and researched the mostly black-on-the-outside, white-on-the-inside object he found Aug. 14 in his front yard.

Turns out it was no ordinary rock, but instead a chondrite meteorite that landed in the Glendale man’s front yard the evening of July 27.

“It’s kind of unremarkable how I found it just because it had been sitting there I guess for a couple weeks and I didn’t notice it,” Horvath said. “Even that morning, I went to mail a letter, so I walked right by it. I don’t know how many times over that two-week period that I might have (walked by it) and it was just sitting there.”

He said that on Aug. 14, he had been kicking rocks back into his yard from the sidewalk when he noticed the meteorite, which was partially hidden by some leaves that blew into his yard from a recent monsoon storm.

“So it kind of caught my attention and I reached down to pick it up. And at that point, I realized it was a rock and thought, ‘Who threw this rock into my yard? Where did it come from?’” Horvath said.

He said he looked around at other yards and didn’t see any black rocks.

“I stood there about a minute just kind of looking at it because it didn’t look like a regular rock,” he said. “It looked heavier and just looked so unique. The striking with the black fusion crust, I think I rubbed some of it off, because the sides were cracked and I kind of rubbed my finger across it and it was very brittle, kind of soft, there were still some cracks, so some of those pieces had fell off. I knew something wasn’t normal about it as far as it wasn’t just a regular rock, something happened to it.”

That “something” occurred July 27 as a fireball, which was only reportedly seen by about a dozen people, streaked across the night sky.

“It was rainy, cloudy and lightning across most of the Arizona state on July 27,” the American Meteor Society reported. “Very few people saw the bright meteor that flew over Phoenix that night. The American Meteor Society has only received 12 reports about this event — mostly from Phoenix but also from Chandler, Queen Creek, Paulden, Tucson and Peoria.”

After more research online, Horvath came across the name Laurence Garvie, a research professor at Arizona State University’s Center for Meteorite Studies. Although he was hesitant to contact the professor after finding out that ASU had discontinued its meteorite verification program due to budget cuts, he emailed photos of the meteorite to Garvie anyway.

“I sent it at 11 p.m. and he responded around midnight, saying, ‘It looks meteoritic in nature,’ and asked me a few other questions like where did I find it?” Horvath said.

He said Garvie contacted him the next day and said it definitely was a meteorite and gave him contact information for Robert Ward, a meteorite hunter and collector from Prescott, who wanted to talk to him.

“So then I called Robert Ward and he was super excited and he was like, ‘I’m going to come down and check it out and start my expedition, which is basically where he starts the study to try to recover more and start pinpointing when it fell and the trajectory and the strewnfield,” Horvath said.

A strewnfield is the area where meteorites from a single fall are dispersed.

Ward, who has one of the largest private collections of meteorites in the world, said the find is significant because of its rarity and freshness.

“The main thing behind it is scientifically, it’s so fresh, so it’s valuable to look at meteorites that are that fresh,” Ward said. “We have thousands and thousands of meteorites that are found as cold finds that have been laying on earth for hundreds of thousands of years, but it’s only a few times a year do we get to examine something that is pristine, it’s an important thing in that respect scientifically, and it’s also very important historically for Arizona being Arizona’s fifth witness fall.”

Before Horvath’s find, only four meteorites had been recovered in the state from fireballs that people witnessed. It is the first “witness fall” in the Valley.

“I didn’t know it was a rare thing to find a meteorite in general and a rarer thing to find a meteorite that had just fallen,” Horvath said. “It wasn’t until I talked to Professor Garvie that Wednesday (Aug. 15) on the phone that he told me that it was the first one in the Valley and the fifth in the state. I just thought, ‘I found a meteorite, I’d like to get it recorded as being found.’”

Ward said he knew from looking at the photo Horvath emailed him that it was a meteorite, but at the time did not realize it came from the July 27 fireball.

“It’s just basically one of those things you know what you’re looking at,” Ward said. “It’s like someone who examines fine art or autographs, there’s certain telltale things that just tell you instantly what you’re looking at. I knew it was a meteorite the instant I looked at the photo, but it wasn’t until I really delved into the situation surrounding the find and the timing that we realized how significant it was, and that we actually captured the fireball coming down on our new camera system here in Arizona.”

Ward, who has found meteorites on every continent except Antarctica and recovered 20 witness falls, spent “quite a few hours” with his colleagues looking in the strewnfield from the July 27 fireball, but did not find any other meteorites.

“You take a dozen stones and spread them out over four miles and there’s a lot of places to hide,” Ward said.

Horvath sold his “museum-quality” meteorite to Ward for an undisclosed sum.

“I wanted it to go to the right place and the right people, because if it’s just sitting in my house, it’s not going to be preserved properly,” Horvath said. “(Ward) is going to curate it and store it with his collection in his climate controlled vault with all his meteorites.”

Ward said he will share a sample of it with Arizona State University to study.

“Our outreach and education in meteoritics is working,” Ward said. “(Cody) recognized that that was a meteorite with having no prior experience in the field. It was amazing that he recognized that rock. He knew that that was fusion crust, so outreach and education is certainly working. That’s what we want to see happen. We want to see more recoveries because of education and teaching people what meteorites are and what they look like and what to look for when this happens.”

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