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Piece of meteorite that created boom over Utah gifted to university

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Posted at 8:27 AM, Aug 24, 2022

TOOELE, Utah — With the boom caused by the meteor that streaked across northern Utah still ringing in the ears of residents, people are now getting their first look at the object that caused such an uproar.

Every once and a while, as luck might have it, the planet receives a gift from above. And that's exactly what happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 13.

"My estimate is that hundreds of thousands of people heard the boom," said Jim Karner with the University of Utah.

While the meteor split into thousands of pieces upon entering the Earth's atmosphere, it created a treasure hunt of sorts to find those pieces that made it to the ground.

Sonny Clary was on the hunt and found the very first piece of the meteor. He said he had nothing else to do, so he hopped in his truck and drove out.

"Second day, within an hour-and-a-half, here it is!"

Clary won't share the exact location of where he made his discovery, hoping it will give university students the chance to find even more pieces. But he had no problem sharing his feelings when he found the meteorite.

"I can't explain it, it's like meeting your wife for the first time. It's just like, wow, this is, wow, this can't be real, and then to go pick it up and look at it and just to say this was the space three days ago, and I have it in my hand now," he said.

Clary's find is even more impressive, considering it's very rare to discover such a new meteorite on the planet.

"You know, very few meteorites in the grand scheme of things have ever been found right after they fell," said Karner.

The meteorite holds secrets of the universe, which is why Clary is giving a piece of his discovery to the University of Utah. Karner was immediately able to explain visible parts of the meteor after getting his first in-person look.

"Look at this tiny little egg shell fusion crust on there; that's caused by the meteor coming through the Earth's atmosphere belt basically just melting the outside of the meteorite."

Now Karner and others at the university will look for more of the meteorite's secrets, which will entail using an electron microscope to learn the composition of its minerals.

More urgently, the meteorite needs a name.

"Hopefully, it could be called the Great Salt Lake," said Karner. "I think that'd be a great name for a meteorite."

While the piece Clary found was just a small one, experts say the meteorite was 800 pounds when it hit the Earth's atmosphere, and there could be much more to be found

"Having students be a part of that is a great experience for them," said Clary.

But if you’re going to go looking, Clary warns about heading out solo or unprepared.

As for the rock from 4.5 billion years ago that can fit in the palm of someone's hand, it is a part of something bigger than anyone can comprehend, and that alone is enough to keep Clary looking up to the sky.

Spencer Joseph at KSTU first reported this story.