Meteors and meteorites – rocks from the sky

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Howard Simkover, middle, in discussion with a guest after his presentation while other OFNC members examine samples of his “rocks from the sky.”

by Michael Swinton

[Editor’s note: Mike Swinton is a new member of the OFNC and the November 14 monthly meeting was his first. He took photos and notes and very kindly shared them and his impressions of the meeting here. Thanks also to Howard Simkover, who was kind enough to clarify technical points.]

Arrival
There was a table of various guides and other related material for information and purchase at the entrance. I happened to purchase the lovely pocket guide on Butterflies of Southern and Eastern Ontario (and southwestern Quebec). There was also a table of refreshments – coffee and baked goods. Attendees (I estimated about 80) mingled for about the first half hour.

Announcements
Ann MacKenzie indicated that the OFNC Finance Committee Executive was looking for volunteers.

Jakob Mueller, who was MC for the evening, said that the OFNC is looking for increased member participation at the 139th Annual Business Meeting on 9 January 2018.  He thought that the relatively low attendance last year was likely due to the snow storm that day, but stressed that the importance of this meeting should not be overlooked by members.  (On joining the OFNC a few weeks ago, I was told that the Annual OFNC Business Meeting is an excellent one for new members to develop an understanding of the breadth of activities of the OFNC and its committees.)

Awards night will be on 24 February – not to be missed!

Presentations
On the theme of meteors and meteorites, Murray Citron kicked-off the presentations by regaling the audience with various poems that referred to these mysterious objects/events in the night sky. One poem recited by Murray was apparently Winston Churchill’s favourite.

Howard Simkover’s presentation was punctuated by engaging explanations and extraordinary photos, videos, and a woodcut of the November 1833 Leonid meteor shower.

It also included photos of field visits and anecdotes that highlighted what meteors and meteorites are, how they came about within the context of the formation and evolution of the solar system, and their relationship to comets and Earth’s orbit. Howard then focused with equal depth of knowledge on the detectable effects of these meteor events on Earth itself, including the resulting meteorites and their impacts on

  • the earth’s crust, including craters and the Cretaceous-Tertiary iridium layer
  • animal life (dinosaurs)
  • buildings (glass window implosions and puncture holes in buildings)
  • at least one person hit by a meteorite

Howard stressed the distinction between “meteor” and “meteorite.” From my understanding, a meteor refers to the observed flash of light during the object’s passage through the atmosphere. The meteorite is the object that reaches the surface of the Earth. His presentation illustrated meteors through an extensive library of photographs and videos. He also discussed and illustrated with diagrams and time-lapse photos the causes of meteor showers, such as the Perseids.

A meteorite from Howard Simkover’s collection, passed around after his presentation.

Howard explained that meteorites are the subject of searches that can be systematically executed, for example, near impact sites in proximity to an observed meteor event, with improved prospects of success on ice surfaces, such as lakes and ponds in winter, and on glaciers in Antarctica that have been concentrating meteorites in specific areas for thousands of years. He gave an example of someone who specializes in finding microscopic meteorite fragments or dust that gets concentrated in rooftop eavestroughs.

There were many follow-up questions and discussions by a clearly engaged and appreciative audience.

By | 2017-11-21T22:50:40+00:00 November 20th, 2017|OFNC event|1 Comment

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  1. Howard Simkover November 21, 2017 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    I would like to thank Michael Swinton for his write-up and his very kind comments about the presentation last week. It is always a pleasure for me to meet with the members of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club. Sincerely, Howard Simkover

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