News Local

Gift from the heavens

By Nathan Taylor, Orillia Packet & Times

Phew! It was only a meteorite. "I thought someone shot at

me," Jack Steenhof said of his close encounter with an otherworldly kind.

The Oro-Medonte Township resident was on his way to a meeting in Kitchener when something shattered his sunroof.

"It was like a sniper hit me," he said, describing the bullet-sized hole that was surrounded by cracked glass. The safety glass held together, preventing the glass, and the foreign object, from striking Steenhof.

The timing was perfect -- or, at least, as good is it can get in such a situation. Steenhof was westbound on Highway 7 at Highway 400, and was travelling less than 10 kilometres an hour at the time. On his way to pick up a colleague from a carpool lot, he was approaching a stoplight when the astral assault occurred.

After the impact, Steenhof heard a clattering on the roof of his vehicle. He pulled over, surveyed the damage and found a rock-like nugget, about an inch long, on his roof.

"It's amazing that I can still have it in my hand," he said.

After doing some research online, looking at other meteorites, Steenhof figured that's exactly what hit his sunroof.

A local astrophysicist thinks so, too.

"It really does look like a meteor ite," said Tom Stiff, a NASA consultant who teaches at Lakehead University's Orillia campus.

The object, which appears to be an iron-nickel meteorite, has distinct marks that indicate "re-e nt r y erosion," he said, as opposed to erosion that occurs on the earth.

"It looks like the surface, at one point, was heated to the vaporization point," Stiff said.

This particular chunk struck about 7:30 a.m., and Stiff said meteorites are more abundant in the morning.

Meteorites are not rare, he said, noting "thousands and thousands" fall every day. But it is rare for them to make it to the earth's surface without burning up.

"And it's extremely rare to be hit by a meteorite," he said.

Steenhof might buy a lottery ticket after this experience.

"It seemed so incredible -- the odds of that happening," he said.

Photos of the object have been forwarded to a meteorite expert for further examination, but Stiff is pretty sure it's the real deal.

ntaylor@orilliapacket.com



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