On April 22, 2012, not too long after an object was reported to have streaked across the sky and crashed into Bantam Lake here in Connecticut, a similar event took place over 3,000 miles away… only this one left pieces behind that were recovered by NASA. What’s now known as the “Sutters Mill Meteorite” gives us locals a glimpse at what could have fallen into Bantam Lake at 2am on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012.
On the afternoon of April 22 a fireball was spotted headed over California towards Nevada, and chunks of it were reported to be falling off into the desert below. NASA estimated that the meteorite causing this stunning daylight display was roughly the size of a mini-van, which could have been similar in size to the object reported over Bantam Lake, despite the witness claiming it was “whale-sized.” This goes to show how difficult it is to judge the actual size of an object in the sky when there is nothing to compare it with. It is important to also note that had the Bantam object really been as large as a whale, there would have been damage and debris left over, even if it had impacted the lake.
NASA scientists rush out for the opportunity to collect fragments of meteors because they can tell us a lot about the objects in space, and as the world experienced with a small chunk of meteor discovered in the ice of Antarctica in 1984 – these leftovers could in fact have signs of life! With oceans making up most of the surface space of Earth, meteorites often come down in the water, making recovery impossible. So scientists often find themselves scouring deserts, ice sheets, and other wide open areas. But coming upon pieces left behind is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, unless of course you have an incident like this where you know about where the needle may be. In these situations, NASA takes to the air in a helium-filled airship to track down impact sites.
In size the fragment from this fireball may not seem all that large, but even a small piece like this can yield many results for scientists. It does gives some perspective for investigators and the curious public who were wondering if an object did indeed crash into Bantam Lake, how and what would people do to search and possibly recover it. Our of this mini-van-sized object, the largest piece of debris recovered was less than 6 inches long… imagine trying to locate something like that at the bottom of a massive lake.