Space race! Meteorites hit Maine, museum offers $25K reward

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Somewhere in a remote stretch of forest near Maine’s border with Canada, rocks from space crashed to Earth and may be scattered across the ground – just waiting to be picked up.

If you’re the first to find a really big one, a museum says it’ll pay out a $25,000 reward.

The unusually bright fireball could be seen in broad daylight around noon Saturday, said Darryl Pitt, chair of the meteorite division at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel.

NASA said the falling meteors was observed on radar – a first for Maine – and witnesses heard sonic booms.

The museum wants to add to its collection of moon and Mars rocks, Pitt said, so the first meteorite hunters to deliver a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) specimen will claim the $25,000 prize.

According to Pitt, the fact that radar detected the fiery descent assures the meteorites can be found on the ground.

“With more people having an awareness, the more people will look – and the greater the likelihood of a recovery,” Pitt said Wednesday.

Still, there’s no guarantee there are any meteorites big enough to claim the payout.

NASA said on its website that the “meteorite masses calculated from the radar signatures range from 1.59g (0.004 pounds) to 322g (0.7 pounds) although larger masses may have fallen.”

The chunks of space rock likely impacted across a swath of ground spanning from the town of Waite, Maine, to Canoose, New Brunswick. According to NASA, the largest specimens will be strewn at the west end of the debris field, closest to Waite – about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Portland.

NASA said four radar sweeps found “signatures consistent with falling meteorites, seen at the time and location reported by eyewitnesses.”

The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum maintains an extensive collection of specimens, including the largest intact Mars rock on Earth.

The museum is asking meteorite hunters to brush up on what meteorites look like before searching, so they know what they’re looking for, and avoid private property unless they have permission.

Pitt said the museum is also looking to purchase any other specimens found by meteorite hunters. He said the specimens “could easily be worth their weight in gold.”

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