There are two things being sought here in Norway, and the meteor/meteorite distinction is not just to keep sticklers for accuracy at bay. A bolide – large blazing and often explosive meteor – was spotted over Scandinavia just over a week ago. Astronomers want to find witnesses, as they strongly suspect the meteorite (the surviving bits that make it to the ground) landed in Norway.
But a straightforward science story rarely makes it to press in this day and age without a few detours through speculative territory, and this one was no exception. No, not the UFO circuit, but … crop circles. But let’s start at the beginning and see if that helps.
Norway has a celebrity astrophysicist, one Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard, who has become more or less a household name thanks to his incredible, charming, boundless, absolute nerdosity for things heavenly. Not only has this endeared him to the public and stimulated interest in the subject, it means he is the always roped in when something appears in the sky.
According to Knut Jørgen, the bolide, which was clearly visible over most of southern Norway, Sweden and Denmark, could be the 15th meteorite ever to hit Norway, but this can’t be officially established unless some physical evidence is produced.
In typically enthusiastic style Røed Ødegaard told VG’s web site: “The last meteorite we know about landed in Moss in 2006. It contained matter older than the Earth and our solar system, and helps use to determine how our planet and solar system were formed, and how the Earth was before. This meteorite can also help us with these things.”
From the over 600 observations of the meteor, there is a clear idea about where it might have landed and scattered its fragments, but so far, no luck with any sample. So scientists are now trying to raise awareness to gather more information and stimulate more searching.
“It is incredibly difficult to find meteorites. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. But now we have narrowed down the fall area drastically, compared to what we started with,” Røed Ødegaard says.
The public have been asked to report finds of rocks that ‘look out of place’ and to send in accounts of any unusual sounds they might have heard on the night of the meteor fall.
One of the first stories to appear after the sighting was linked to this photo of an odd formation of ice rings that appeared linked to a puncture or punctures in the surface of a frozen lake, in Arna near Bergen.
The pattern formed on the surface is very unusual, but not unknown. But the story suddenly switched from possible meteorite punctures to discussions about other explanations for the mystery. And the media went to Norway’s … crop circle milieu for the answer.
Next time – solving the riddle of the ice circles