Ashley Moritz and her partner, Chris Rodgers, hold up a chunk of meteorite that Moritz found in Hamburg Township. Moritz said she plans to sell the approximately 4.5 billion-year-old rock to invest in her business, Green Eyes Estate Sales.

Ashley Moritz and her partner, Chris Rodgers, hold up a chunk of meteorite that Moritz found in Hamburg Township. Moritz said she plans to sell the approximately 4.5 billion-year-old rock to invest in her business, Green Eyes Estate Sales.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Royal Oak treasure hunter finds meteorite

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published January 29, 2018

 Moritz displays a chunk of meteorite she found in Hamburg Township at her Royal Oak home Jan. 23.

Moritz displays a chunk of meteorite she found in Hamburg Township at her Royal Oak home Jan. 23.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — An area in Hamburg Township, Michigan, has the professional and amateur meteorite-hunter community buzzing after NASA confirmed a space rock allegedly 6 feet in diameter and possibly as big as the size of a small SUV entered the Earth’s atmosphere Jan. 16.

On Jan. 19, 34-year-old Ashley Moritz, of Royal Oak, spied with her naked eye what she had been hoping to find — a blackened, magnetic rock on top of a frozen lake.

“I spotted the little hole (in a patch of snow),” she said. “It looked like someone had thrown it. I picked it up, and it was not a leaf.”

She and her partner, Chris Rodgers, who enjoy scouring for buried treasure, responded to the area after hearing news reports about the cosmic event. The big boom and daylight-esque flash had the metro Detroit area chattering and news outlets scrambling for answers.

“I have treasure hunting in my DNA, if you will,” said Moritz, who launched her own estate sale business last year. “We had our metal detectors, but I decided to forgo that and grabbed a hand rake when I saw it.”

She said the rock pinged for metallic substance, which Rodgers said was from the iron inside. The pair ran into several professional meteorite hunters at the site and in Royal Oak, and all verified the authenticity of their find, Rodgers said.

“A week ago, I think they said it was 4.5 billion (years old), give or take,” Moritz said Jan. 23. “A week and a half ago it was in space — weird!”

Moritz said she plans to sell the meteorite and invest the money into her business.

According to reports, she said the going rate, at the lowest, is $100 per gram, but that they can sell for more. A meteorite hunter tracked her down at a tavern in Royal Oak and weighed the rock at 51.2 grams, she said.

Southfield native Darryl Pitt, curator of the Macovich Collection of Meteorites in New York City and a meteorite consultant to Christie’s Auction House, offered a $20,000 reward to the first 2.2-pound meteorite specimen found, according to a Jan. 18 press release.

Researcher Marc Fries, who curates NASA’s collection of cosmic dust and works out of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, used social media and news reports to determine the impact site as Hamburg Township.

“Basically, that rock is about 4.5 billion years old,” he told the Royal Oak Review in a Jan. 24 phone interview. “It is the oldest thing you’ll ever, ever lay eyes on.”

One of the most interesting things about the Jan. 16 “fall,” Fries said, was that the meteorite had an orbit, which showed up on many videos. The meteorite likely hailed from the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter, and something happened recently to fling it directly into Earth’s path, he said.

“If this thing had hit the moon, it would have made a very large crater,” Fries said. “In a typical year, about a dozen to two dozen meteorite falls are actually recovered.”

Most, he said, are either very small, fall into the ocean, or land somewhere beyond the scope of human sight. Luckily, Doppler radar picked up the Jan. 16 event, according to the press release.

Judging from photos, Fries said the meteorite in question is likely an “ordinary chondrite,” primordial material from when the Earth was created, and that “falls” generally occur once per day.

In a Jan. 24 phone interview with the Royal Oak Review, Warren Astronomical Society public outreach specialist Bob Berta, of Macomb Township, said the cosmic event was “a big deal.”

“There are a lot of small meteorites that come in all the time — the size of a small grain of sand — but to get a large one like this is very rare,” Berta said. “NASA originally thought it came into the atmosphere around 25 and 26 Mile and Card, a few miles from my house.”

Berta said NASA confirmed that the shock of the meteorite had the equivalent on the Richter scale of a 2.0 magnitude earthquake. Reports vary on how fast the meteorite was traveling, Berta said, but he said that meteorites normally come in at 25,000-28,000 mph.

“It would be older than the Earth. Typically, meteorites are leftover materials from the creation of our planetary system,” Berta said. “(We’ll know more) when NASA studies it and comes out with more information.”

He said the Earth’s atmosphere is generally what protects the planet from dangerous impacts, as was the case with the Jan. 16 fireball, in which most of it was destroyed.

“It was a big deal — a pretty awesome thing,” he said. “I wish that I had seen it.”

For more information about the Warren Astronomical Society, a nonprofit organization of amateur astronomers serving the metro Detroit area, call (313) 282-2562 or visit www.warrenastro.org.