Sandra Macika, Todd Slisher, Tony Licata and Brian Wolf, a meteorite search crew, display their finds at Licata’s family’s lake cottage Jan. 18 in Hamburg Township.

Sandra Macika, Todd Slisher, Tony Licata and Brian Wolf, a meteorite search crew, display their finds at Licata’s family’s lake cottage Jan. 18 in Hamburg Township.

Photo provided by Jenny Pon


Meteorite hunter offers reward for piece of the fireball

By: Kayla Dimick, Sherri Kolade | Southfield Sun | Published January 24, 2018

METRO DETROIT —  If you’ve got your hands on a piece of the meteor that shook metro Detroit earlier this month, you could be in for a payday. 

Social media was abuzz the night of Jan. 16 as people in metro Detroit tried to figure out what exactly happened when a large “boom” was heard, accompanied by mysterious lights in the sky.

While some people thought a house might have exploded and others speculated that it was something more threatening, like perhaps a missile, Lt. Mike Shaw, of the Michigan State Police, confirmed that the incident was the work of a meteor.

“We’re getting reports all the way from Lansing to Chicago,” said Shaw of the bright light seen streaking through the sky just after 8 p.m. “It seems the meteor broke up in the atmosphere.”

Self-proclaimed extraterrestrial treasure hunter Darryl Pitt, of New York City, is offering a $20,000 reward for the first at-least 2.2-pound meteorite that is recovered. 

Pitt, who grew up in Southfield and attended the University of Michigan, is the meteorite consultant to Christie’s New York, which offers auctions and private sales of fine art, antiques, jewelry, watches, wine and more. 

On Jan. 19, Pitt traveled from New York to Michigan, where he planned to rent a car and head out to Hamburg Township to meet with colleagues to discuss the meteorites. 

“When I land, I plan on having a Coney Island or two,” Pitt said. “We’ll meet, get together, have dinner, and they’ll fill me in on where they found the different specimens.” 

After a meal of Michigan’s finest, Pitt said he plans on getting to work. 

“We’ll figure out the dimensions of the area of where it fell, and from that we’ll know the trajectory of the object. There’s going to be far more specimens, and they’ll be small.”

Pitt is also the owner of the Peekskill Meteorite Car, which he bought after it was struck by a meteorite outside of New York City in 1992. The car is now on display at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. 

“People should be looking for black rocks on top of the snow. When they come through the atmosphere, they get toasted. It’s like literally burning up a marshmallow in a fire. If you don’t brown it, it burns. And that’s what happens — meteorites don’t get browned; they get burned,” he said. 

While hunting for the specimens himself, Pitt is also offering up a reward for residents who may have recovered a piece of the pie. 

“I’ll gladly buy it from them. If they find one, they have got an extraterrestrial lottery ticket,” Pitt said. “Every single meteorite known to exist weighs less than the world’s annual output of gold. Every single one found will sell more than their weight in gold.”

The U.S. Geological Survey’s equipment registered a 2.0-magnitude earthquake about 8 kilometers southwest of New Haven. It’s believed that that’s where the meteor might have struck the ground, and remnants of it may be found in the surrounding areas, like Mount Clemens.
Farmington resident Tony Licata not only heard and saw the big “boom” that turned out to be a meteor the evening of Jan. 16, but he helped find meteorite fragments days later.

Licata, a member of the Farmington Community Stargazers, said in a recent phone interview that he and several others visited lakes in the area of Hamburg Township — in the path of the meteor — and found some of the fragments the evening of Jan. 18.

“I was in the path that was plotted by NASA in Hamburg Township,” he said, adding that he is part of a team of people who searched lakes in that area — and they are choosing not to divulge at which lake the meteor fragments were found. “We found it on one of those lakes in the area of the meteor fall. We want to send these out for study.”

The  Farmington Community Stargazers have star parties at Heritage Park in Farmington Hills, and they regularly meet at the Farmington Community Library. The group formed in 2015 after a local instructor gave a slide presentation on the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope launch. 

Licata said that when he tells people of his find, their reactions range from disbelief to “of course you found one” — if they know him.

He added that Todd Slisher, executive director of the Flint-based Longway Planetarium and Sloan Museum, triangulated where the meteor had passed over metro Detroit based on shadows shown in security camera footage of his backyard.

“So we kind of followed that track, and (that) led us to a certain spot where we picked (up meteorite) debris,” he said. “These are fresh fragments from that meteorite, or meteoroid” — as it is traveling in air, it is still a meteoroid — “from that fireball that was over the Detroit area on Jan. 16.”

Licata said the team knows that what they collected are “fresh fragments,” because the rocks were sitting on top of the ice.

“We know there are no rocks sitting on top of the middle of the lake,” he said.

Licata said that his find was “exciting.”

“I remember seeing the flash — I was way up north, in my cottage,” where he has an observatory, he said, adding that he was collecting data for a comet star when it happened. “I stepped outside to check the temperature … (when) I saw a flash. I didn’t know what it was and thought nothing of it. About an hour later, I read reports online.”

Days after his initial find, he and others went back to the lake in Hamburg Township and found tiny meteorites.

“We did pick up a few micrometeorites on our magnet — very tiny meteorites,” he said.

For more information on the Stargazers, go to www.facebook.com/farmingtoncommunitystargazers or email farmingtonstargazers@gmail.com.