Amy Roberts: The Big Bang Theory | ParkRecord.com
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Amy Roberts: The Big Bang Theory

Park Record columnist Amy Roberts.

People and windows were both left a bit rattled on Saturday morning, as a loud blast echoed across much of Utah. I was pouring a cup of coffee when I heard, and felt, what we have since learned was almost certainly a sonic boom caused by a meteor whizzing over the state. 

At the time, I wondered if an avalanche bomb perhaps had a five-month delay and accidently detonated. Almost immediately people shared theories on social media — an earthquake or a military exercise being the most common guesses. Possibly a UFO, though that was ruled out as soon as it was confirmed Mike Lee hadn’t been abducted. One person I follow simply posted, “Excuse me. I ate Mexican last night. My apologies.”

It didn’t take long for some really smart people to explain the most probable scenario — a noise making meteor — suggested a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Utah. Which honestly, the University of Utah should be making more noise about that department. Who would have guessed the school has an entire department dedicated to studying the, “nature of dark matter, the large scale structure and expansion rate of the Universe, the relation of galaxies to their dark matter halos, the energetics of galaxy clusters, the history of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, the demographics of massive black holes, the Milky Way’s stellar populations and interstellar medium, the astrophysics of compact objects, the sources of the highest energy photons, and the formation of planetary systems.”



Considering I get overwhelmed just going to a planetarium, my mind was utterly boggled reading about the department on the University’s website. I’m equal parts fascinated by it all and far too unimaginative to comprehend. A few years ago, I read the book Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah, and I still get disturbed every time I see a blue light.

Anyway, by now most agree the blast so many Utahns heard was related to the meteor. The theoretical astrophysicist from the U stated a sonic boom is an uncommon, but not unheard of, meteor side effect. He went on to estimate the meteor was likely about three feet in diameter when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The smaller meteors don’t cause as much of a ruckus because they burn up in the planet’s outer atmosphere. The really big ones can cause damage. The really, really big ones make dinosaurs go extinct.



Ours though seems to have been the perfect sized meteor. Small enough to be noticed and jazz things up, yet large enough to potentially leave a trail of valuables behind. Experts confirmed it’s likely the meteor exploded into fragments over the state, and those fragments can be worth as much as $1,000 per gram. So I guess we can expect to see loads more people with shovels on the side of highway 40 next week. Maybe we can get the treasure hunters to help the guys in orange vests move cones around while they’re digging for meteorite excrement on the hillside. 

What a story that would be to tell. 

“How did you make your first $10 million?” 

“Well, you see, a meteor flashed across the sky, and luckily I had a metal detector and a shovel in my trunk…”

If I’m going to retire early, I want a story like that. Getting lucky on Wall Street or picking winning lottery numbers seem so bland compared to that dinner party conversation.

As luck would have it, this is possible, though certainly not probable. The theoretical astrophysicist confirmed there are “tens of thousands” of tons of micrometeorites scattered across the planet. But since they pretty much just look like rocks, it can be difficult to suss out what’s worth a sizeable chunk of money, and what is basically just a paper weight. 

Given the recent and dramatic increase in our property taxes, a meteorite scavenger hunt might not be the worst idea. 

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