Lots of people in and around the small town of Løten in Southern Norway could both see and hear that a meteor landed somewhere in the vicinity last week. Now the search is on to find it, a job made difficult by lots of snow in the area.
“It happens from time to time that meteors land on the earth,” notes Anne Strømmen Lycke, chief executive of NORSAR, the Norwegian independent research agency that monitors seismic activity. She told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), however, that it’s not often “we’ve ever been able to see so clearly where it landed.”
NORSAR’s monitoring stations at Løten registered signals from a meteor coming in over Scandinavia between midnight and 1am on January 5. It was also heard by many people living around 85 kilometers away at Ullensaker, not far from the scene of a major and fatal landslide on December 30.
Many people called in to NORSAR, which also monitors earthquakes, “and were worried and wondered whether a new slide was on the way,” Lycke said. “We checked things out and could tell them that it was only a meteor that had entered the earth’s atmosphere.”
‘Sharp noise’ and ‘clear light’
In addition to what NORSAR calls “a sharp noise” generated by the meteor, many saw clear light shooting behind it, and it approached from the south. That’s in accordance with the observations from Ullensaker, which lies south and slightly west of Løten, otherwise best known as the home of one of Norway’s leading brands of the strong liquor known as akevitt.
NORSAR’s equipment showed that it hit the earth near Løten at 24 minutes and 36 seconds after midnight, around three hours after breaking through the atmosphere.
“We are quite lucky, since it landed so close to one of the stations we have in Løten,” Lycke said. “When it hit the ground it generated a small earthquake, which was also registered on our equipment.”
The size of an apple
The resulting meteorite that hit the ground has been measured as between 0.5-2 kilos, and it landed somewhere within 15- to 20 kilometers of the NORSAR station. Both NORSAR and Norsk Meteornettverk (the Norwegian Meteor Network) will try to find at least fragments of the meteorite, but not much may be left of it since it likely shattered on impact and probably wasn’t much bigger than an apple.
“It’s still really exciting,” Morten Bilet of the network told NRK. He hopes the “New Year’s Meteorite” can be placed along with another 16 meteorites found in Norway that are preserved at Norway’s Museum of Natural History.
NORSAR has pinpointed a likely landing area, “but it’s still a large area and there’s a lot of snow,” Bilet said. “But not least for the sake of research, it would be great if we can find it.”