Advanced Search

Morning light : the secret history of the Tagish Lake Fireball

Research and Teaching Output of the MIT Community

Show simple item record

dc.contributor.advisor Thomas Levenson. en_US Berdahl, James Scott en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Graduate Program in Science Writing. en_US 2011-01-26T14:32:32Z 2011-01-26T14:32:32Z 2010 en_US 2010 en_US
dc.description Thesis (S.M. in Science Writing)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Humanities, Graduate Program in Science Writing, 2010. en_US
dc.description Cataloged from PDF version of thesis. en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (p. 33-36). en_US
dc.description.abstract [Spoiler alert:] On January 18, 2000, a meteoroid 4 meters in diameter hit the Earth's atmosphere and exploded over the Yukon Territory in northern Canada. The size of the fireball and the contrail that it left behind caught the attention of meteoriticists, who suspected it was a carbonaceous chondrite. Amongst the public, however, reactions to the event were varied, and conspiracy theorists emerged, claiming that the meteor had been a failed weapons test conducted by the United States military. A week after the fall, outdoorsman Jim Brook discovered black meteorites on the frozen surface of Tagish Lake, in northern British Columbia. He kept the stones pristine: frozen and untouched-a first for any meteorite fall. He made his discovery known to a few scientists only after they agreed to confidentiality, and those scientists confirmed that he had found a carbonaceous chondrite. Alan Hildebrand and Peter Brown put together an expedition to recover more fragments of the rare meteorite, interviewing eyewitnesses to reconstruct the trajectory of the bolide, but recovery efforts were hampered by deep snow. A second expedition returned in the spring when, for a short window, the fragile chondrites were exposed on the melting lake ice, and collection was successful. The secrecy surrounding these expeditions contributed to the idea that a cover-up was taking place; that the meteorite was not real. But scientific analysis, conducted by Mike Zolensky and many others, has proven otherwise. The Tagish Lake Meteorite appears to be a new type of meteorite, with ties to CI and CM type chondrites, possibly from the D type asteroids. It has the highest concentrations of carbon observed in any extraterrestrial sample, and an abundance of presolar grains. Rich in extraterrestrial organic compounds and containing distinct hollow organic globules, the primitive meteorite has brought a mini revolution to the field of meteoritics. It may help us understand the beginnings of the solar system and the origins of life on Earth. The story of the fall, recovery and the study of this meteorite highlights the necessary uncertainties of the scientific method, and the relationship between science and the general public. en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by James Scott Berdahl. en_US
dc.format.extent 36 p. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.rights.uri en_US
dc.subject Graduate Program in Science Writing. en_US
dc.title Morning light : the secret history of the Tagish Lake Fireball en_US
dc.title.alternative Secret history of the Tagish Lake Fireball en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Science Writing en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Graduate Program in Science Writing. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 697839233 en_US

Files in this item

Name Size Format Description
697839233-MIT.pdf 2.687Mb PDF Full printable version

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show simple item record