Saturday, April 5, 2014

[Caught On Video] Meteorite Hurtles Past Norwegian Skydiver

One summer day in 2012, Anders Helstrup and several other members of the Oslo Parachute Club jumped from a small plane that had taken off from Østre Æra Airport in Hedmark.

Anders was wearing his wingsuit with two GoPro HERO3 cameras fixed to his helmet. After he had released his parachute something never before caught on camera happened. On the way down he realised something strange was happening.

Meteorite Hurtles Past Norwegian Skydiver Dark Flight GoPro Hero
Meteorite Hurtles Past Norwegian Skydiver GoPro Hero
“I got the feeling that there was something, but I didn’t register what was happening,”

After landing Anders looked at the film from the two GoPro HERO3 cameras from the jump, which then clearly showed that something did happen.

Something that looks like a stone hurtles past Anders, missing him by only a few metres.

“When we stopped the GoPro film, we could clearly see something that looked like a stone. At first it crossed my mind that it had been packed into a parachute, but it’s simply too big for that.”

Search for Meteorite in the forest

Later that day, Anders returned to Oslo. But he could not stop thinking about his strange experience, so he took time off from work to go back to the Rena area for a couple of days to look for the meteorite but with no luck.

“We continued the search during the summer. I got my girlfriend, family and friends to join the project. We searched the forest and kept looking.".

Eventually Anders contacted the Natural History Museum in Oslo.

 Meteorite experts get involved

“The GoPro film caused a sensation in the meteorite community. They seemed convinced that this was a meteorite, perhaps I was the one who was the most sceptical.”

Now Anders suddenly had a whole flock of meteorite enthusiasts following him. They analysed and triangulated and narrowed down the search area.

In the summer of 2012 Anders and his helpers had begun searching an area of one and a half square kilometres. Today, the area has been limited to 100 times a hundred meters, but that’s big enough especially when you’re not really sure what a meteorite looks like.

“I found a stone which I thought was a meteorite and took it to the museum. They just fell about laughing,"

“It can’t be anything else”

Although Andres is still not completely convinced that it was indeed a meteorite that flew past him, the experts are in no doubt.

“It can’t be anything else. The shape is typical of meteorites. A fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded,” said geologist Hans Amundsen.

He explained that the meteorite had been part of a larger stone that had exploded perhaps 20 kilometres above Anders.

Amundsen thinks he can make out coloured patches in the stone, and believes that in that case it may be a breccia a common type of meteorite rock.

“A world first”

When a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it slows down and ionizes molecules around it; it is this blazing track across the sky that is called a meteor.

When the light disappears, the meteorite enters the stage called "dark flight"; it then no longer travels at an angle, but falls straight down.

“It has never happened before that a meteorite has been filmed during dark flight; this is the first time in world history,” said Amundsen.

That fact means that the meteorite, which Amundsen says would normally be worth a few hundred thousand kroner, is actually far more valuable than its weight would suggest.

Help needed

How valuable the meteorite may be remains irrelevant so long as it has not been found.

“We just have to find out exactly where Anders was when the meteorite passed. At that moment the meteorite was falling straight down at about 300 kilometres per hour,” said Amundsen.

He points out that the terrain is difficult to search in marshes, thick forest and scrub. And now they want help in both calculating and searching. To get help, they have created a website.

“The aim of the website is to present the story in simple terms, relating what happened and letting people see the videos and still pictures,” explained Anders.

“Now nerds and creative people from all over the world can have a go,” said Amundsen.

He finds it hard to give an opinion on the probability of filming a meteorite during a parachute jump, but makes a try anyway. “It’s certainly much less likely than winning the lottery three times in a row.”

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