Screen grab from Aleksandr Ivanov’s video of the Chelyabinsk meteor on February 15, 2013, via Wikimedia Commons.
Screen grab from Aleksandr Ivanov’s video of the Chelyabinsk meteor on February 15, 2013, via Wikimedia Commons.

Meteorite Hunting, with David Grinspoon and Geoff Notkin

Chelyabinsk meteor on February 15, 2013. Credit: Aleksandr Ivanov, [CC BY-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

It’s time to venture into the wild world of meteorite hunting. On this episode of StarTalk All-Stars, astrobiologist and host David Grinspoon and comic co-host Chuck Nice sit down with meteorite hunter Geoff Notkin at The Explorer’s Club in NYC. You’ll learn how Geoff got started in meteorite hunting and why his childhood was very influential on his career choice. Geoff tells us some of the techniques used for meteorite hunting including using Doppler radar and “cold hunting” and why cold hunting is his favorite technique. 

You’ll learn why Geoff loves the movie Armageddon even though the science is a little wacky. We discuss why meteorites don’t really look like how they’re portrayed on TV and in film. Find out more about one of Geoff’s most memorable times interacting with people who thought they had found a meteorite. Discover more about how life possibly got started on Earth through the transfer of essential life ingredients from elsewhere in the universe. Chuck ponders the idea of planets “swapping life” with each other. Geoff shares what characteristics we can look for to identify meteorites in the wild, and which rocks are most mistaken for meteorites and why. 

Then, we turn our attention to the larger events. Find out more about the Chelyabinsk meteor, a meteor that impacted in Russia in 2013. You’ll learn why the flash and shockwave of that event lead to numerous injuries. Geoff tells us some history of asteroid impacts on Earth including the Sikhote-Alin meteorite which is the largest meteorite in recorded history, creating approximately 100 craters in Siberia. We look at the advantages of dash cams and HD cameras capable of spotting meteor events. We also ponder why, if camera technology has only gotten better and more accessible, the amounts of UFO videos have gone down since a few decades ago. You’ll hear if a collision could be large enough to create a hole in the atmosphere. All that, plus, Geoff explains the visual experience of being at the bottom of a crater tells us if we should be worried about a large-scale meteor event that could wipe us all out.

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