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Novato – Collision History Revealed in California Rock

The long anticipated paper by Peter Jenniskens and The Novato Meteorite Consortium has finally been published.

Novato (N04) – 4th stone recovered from the 4th California fall.

The meteorite that fell onto the roof of Lisa Webber’s house in Novato, California, on Oct. 17, 2012, has revealed a detailed picture of its origin and tumultuous journey through space and Earth’s atmosphere. Peter Jenniskens led an international consortium of fifty researchers that studied the recovered meteorite and published their findings in the August issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

Peter Jenniskens, who is a meteor astronomer and is the principal investigator for the consortium study, works for the SETI Institute, Mountain View, California at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. He recently announced, “Our investigation has revealed a long history that dates to when the moon formed from the Earth after a giant impact.”

The fall of the Novato meteorite was monitored by Peter Jenniskens’ astronomical surveillance network, CAMS (Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance), which gave researchers something of a guess about where the object may have came down. The early reports that it was somewhere near Martinez, were unfounded. But days later, after hearing on the news that a meteorite fell (and remembering hearing a noise on the roof that same night), Novato resident Lisa Webber reported that she had recovered a rock that must have fallen on her roof. That stone turned out to be the first of the (currently 6) meteorite fragments to be recovered (and the reason these objects are now called the Novato meteorite).

Over the next several weeks, five more stones, most of them are just a couple of centimeters across, turned up within a few kilometers of Lisa Webber’s home – – a story that is retold on the CAMS website. These rocks revealed the evidence that allowed the scientists to piece together what they call “the space rock’s tumultuous journey.”

Qing-zhu Yin, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California – Davis, said, “We determined that the meteorite likely got its black appearance from massive impact shocks causing a collisional resetting event 4.472 billion years ago, roughly 64-126 million years after the formation of the solar system,” and added, “We now suspect that the moon-forming impact may have scattered debris all over the inner solar system and hit the parent body of the Novato meteorite.”

Jenniskens successfully measured the Novato approach orbit and confirmed that the Gefion asteroid family in the middle of the main asteroid belt can be the source of the meteorites.

Kees Welten, a cosmochemist at UC Berkeley, said, “Novato broke from one of the Gefion family asteroids nine million years ago.”

Kunihiko Nishiizumi, a cosmochemist also of UC Berkeley, added, “But the rock that was to become Novato, may have been buried in a larger object until about one million years ago.”

Derek Sears, a meteoriticist working for the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Sonoma, California, at Ames said, “We can tell the rock was heated, but the cause of the heating is unclear. It seems that Novato was hit again.”

The researchers have collaborated to produce this scenario of violent episodes dating back nearly 4.5 billion years and ending on Oct. 17, 2012, when the bolide broke up and fell on and around the Marin County suburb of Novato:

  • 4.472 billion years ago (±31 million years): The Novato’s parent body is struck by debris from the same “Great Bombardment” that formed the Earth’s moon.
  • 470 million years ago: Another large impact smashes the Novato’s parent body; it’s now part of an asteroid in a belt of cosmic debris orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.
  • 9 million years ago: The Novato portion of the parent body breaks off, forming a meteoroid, but could still be the interior portion of a larger piece of space rock.
  • 1 million years ago: The meteoroid that will become Novato continues to break apart.
  • 100,000 years ago: Chemical studies suggest that the Novato meteoroid was involved in one last collision. The Novato portion of this meteoroid starts a slow spiral into the Sun.
  • Oct. 17, 2012, 7:45 P.M. PDT: The Novato meteoroid, now more than a foot across but weighing less than 200pounds, hits the Earth’s atmosphere at 9 miles per second, producing a fireball-meteor, but soon breaks up over the North Bay, falling to the ground to produce the Novato meteorites.

Daniel Glavin at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, led a team to search the Novato meteorites for amino acids – molecules present in and essential for life on Earth – and detected some unusual non-protein amino acids that are now very rare on Earth but indigenous to the Novato meteorite.

Researchers were surprised to find that all these impacts did not completely destroy the organic compounds in this meteorite. Qinghao Wu and Richard Zare of Stanford University in California measured a rich array of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds – complex, carbon-rich molecules that are both widespread and abundant throughout the universe.

Jenniskens says that, “The quick recovery of the Novato meteorites made these studies possible.”

The research was supported by the NASA Near Earth Object Observation, Planetary Astronomy and Cosmochemistry programs, and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The following is the Abstract and the Table of Contents as published in:

Meteoritics & Planetary Science | Volume 49, Issue 8, pages 1388–1425, August 2014[Copyright Clearance Center – License Number: 3462651289692 ]

The fragmentation of the Novato meteorite on Oct. 17, 2012, as depicted in a horizontally mirrored image to show the progression of the event (from left to right). (Robert P. Moreno Jr., Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens/NASA-SETI)

 The fragmentation of the Novato meteorite on Oct. 17, 2012, as depicted in a
horizontally mirrored image to show the progression of the event (from left to right).
(Credit: Robert P. Moreno Jr., Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens/NASA-SETI)

Fall, Recovery, and Characterization of the Novato L6 Chondrite Breccia

(The Novato Meteorite Consortium) :

Peter JENNISKENS (1,2), Alan E. RUBIN (3, Qing-Zhu YIN4, Derek W. G. SEARS (2,5,
Scott A. SANDFORD (2), Michael E. ZOLENSKY (6), Alexander N. KROT (7), Leigh BLAIR (1),
Darci KANE (8), Jason UTAS (9), Robert VERISH (10), Jon M. FRIEDRICH (11,12),
Josh WIMPENNY (4), Gary R. EPPICH (13), Karen ZIEGLER (14), Kenneth L. VEROSUB (4),
Douglas J. ROWLAND (15), Jim ALBERS (1), Peter S. GURAL (1), Bryant GRIGSBY (1),
Marc D. FRIES (6), Robert MATSON (16), Malcolm JOHNSTON (17), Elizabeth SILBER (18), Peter BROWN (18), Akane YAMAKAWA (4), Matthew E. SANBORN (4),
Matthias LAUBENSTEIN (19), Kees C. WELTEN (20), Kunihiko NISHIIZUMI (20),
Matthias M. M. MEIER (21,22), Henner BUSEMANN (23), Patricia CLAY (23),
Marc W. CAFFEE (24), Phillipe SCHMITT-KOPPLIN (25,26), Norbert HERTKORN (25), Daniel P. GLAVIN (27), Michael P. CALLAHAN (27), Jason P. DWORKIN (27),
Qinghao WU (28), Richard N. ZARE (28), Monica GRADY (29), Sasha VERCHOVSKY (29), Vacheslav EMEL’YANENKO (30), Sergey NAROENKOV (30), David L. CLARK (18),
Beverly GIRTEN (2), Peter S. WORDEN (2)


(The Novato Meteorite Consortium) :

1 ) SETI Institute, Carl Sagan Center, Mountain View, California 94043, USA

2 ) NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035, USA

3 ) Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095–1567, USA

4 ) Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California at Davis, Davis, California 95616–8605, USA

5 ) BAER Institute, Mountain View, California 94043, USA

6 ) Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 77801, USA

7 ) Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822, USA

8 ) Buck Institute, Novato, California 94945, USA

9 ) Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095–1567, USA

10) Meteorite Recovery Laboratory, P.O. Box 463084, Escondido, California 92046, USA

11) Department of Chemistry, Fordham University, Bronx, New York 10458, USA

12) Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 10024, USA

13) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Glenn Seaborg Institute, Livermore, California 94550, USA

14) Institute of Meteoritics, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131–0001, USA

15) Center for Molecular and Genomic Imaging, University of California at Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA

16) S.A.I.C., San Diego, California 92121, USA

17) US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

18) Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 3K7, Canada

19) Lab. Naz. del Gran Sasso, Inst. Naz. di Fiscia Nucleare, I-67010 Assergi (AQ), Italy

20) Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

21) Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Z€urich, CH-8092 Z€urich, Switzerland

22) Department of Geology, Lund University, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden

23) School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (SEAES), University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

24) Department of Physics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA

25) B.G.C., Helmholtz Zentrum M€unchen, D-85764 M€unchen, Germany 26) A.L.C., Technische Universit€at M€unchen-TUM, D-85354 Freising, Germany

27) Solar System Exploration Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

28) Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305–5080, USA

29) Planetary and Space Science Research Institute, Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

30) Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences (INASAN), Moscow 119017, Russia

Abstract – The Novato L6 chondrite fragmental breccia fell in California on 17 October 2012, and was recovered after the Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS) project determined the meteor’s trajectory between 95 and 46 km altitude. The final fragmentation from  42 to 22 km altitude was exceptionally well documented by digital photographs. The first sample was recovered before rain hit the area. First results from a consortium study of the meteorite’s characterization, cosmogenic and radiogenic nuclides, origin, and conditions of the fall are presented. Some meteorites did not retain fusion crust and show evidence of spallation. Before entry, the meteoroid was 35 ± 5 cm in diameter (mass 80 ± 35 kg) with a cosmic-ray exposure age of 9 ± 1 Ma, if it had a one-stage exposure history. A two-stage exposure history is more likely, with lower shielding in the last few Ma. Thermoluminescence data suggest a collision event within the last ~0.1 Ma.  Novato probably belonged to the class of shocked L chondrites that have a common shock age of 470 Ma, based on the U,Th-He age of 420 ± 220 Ma. The measured orbits of Novato, Jesenice, and Innisfree are consistent with a proposed origin of these shocked L chondrites in the Gefion asteroid family, perhaps directly via the 5:2 mean-motion resonance with Jupiter. Novato experienced a stronger compaction than did other L6 chondrites of
shock-stage S4 Despite this, a freshly broken surface shows a wide range of organic compounds.

Source: Meteoritics & Planetary Science 1–38 (2014) doi: 10.1111/maps.12323

The fragmentation of the Novato meteorite on Oct. 17, 2012, as depicted
in a horizontally mirrored image to show the progression of the event (from left to right).
(Robert P. Moreno Jr., Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens/NASA-SETI)


Table of Contents:





Mechanical Properties and Magnetic Susceptibility

Petrography and Mineralogy

Bulk Chemical Composition

Oxygen and Chromium Isotopes


Trajectory and Pre-Atmospheric Orbit

Light Curve and Initial Mass

Dark Flight and Source Energy





Meteoroid Diameter

Cosmic-Ray Exposure Age

Thermal Resetting Events

More Recent Heating Events

Collisional Compaction


Methanol Soluble Organics

Amino Acids

Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons

Macromolecular Carbon and Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopes


Possible Source Region in the Asteroid Main Belt

Pre-Atmospheric Detection



Editorial Handling



List of Figures (Fig.) :

Fig. 1. All recovered Novato meteorites, with sample identification chart for Novato N01 (scale in mm).

Fig. 2. Photographic images of cut Novato faces showing the brecciated chondritic texture…

Fig. 3. X-ray CT imagery of Novato N05 and N06…

Fig. 4. Backscattering electron (BSE) images of Novato N06.

Fig. 5. Mean CI-normalized abundances of lithophiles, siderophiles, and moderately volatile elements in Novato…

Fig. 6. CI chondrite normalized rare earth element pattern of fragments of Novato N01, N05, and N06.

Fig. 7. Combined elemental maps of Novato N06…

Fig. 8. Combined elemental maps of Novato N06…

Fig. 9. Diagrams, showing Novato isotope data together with H, L, and LL chondrites…

Fig. 10. Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance detections of the November 17 fireball…

Fig. 11. Trajectory solutions derived from different combinations of cameras … and the station locations…

Fig. 12. Observed minus calculated values for azimuth and elevation of the meteor in all video frames…

Fig. 13. Novato fireball visual brightness as seen from a distance of 100 km, and the approximate deceleration profile.

Fig. 14. Doppler weather radar returns (KMUX 2:39:44 UT)…

Fig. 15. Fragmentation and relative deceleration at the end of the trajectory in a compilation of digital photographs…

Fig. 16. A, B) Details of the fusion crust of N01, and C, D) Evidence for spallation in Novato N03…

Fig. 17. Stereoplot of major axis orientations of all individual metal grains in two different stones of the Novato fall.

Fig. 18. Degree of compaction…

Fig. 19. Ion cyclotron resonance Fourier transform mass spectrometry (ICRFT/MS).

Fig. 20. One-dimensional 1H NMR spectra (800 MHz, CD3OD)…

Fig. 21. L2MS spectrum of Novato N01-1b.

Fig. 22. Data from stepped combustion-gas source-mass spectrometry of light and dark lithologies from Novato 01-1e.


List of Tables:


Table 1. Overview of recovered meteorites.

Table 2. Summary of XRF-derived major elemental composition data for Novato N06 (slab)…

Table 3. Preliminary mean CI (Orgueil) weight normalized compositions of lithophiles, siderophiles, etc. in Novato…

Table 4. Abundances of major, minor, and trace elements in the Novato L6 chondrite.

Table 5a. Summary of oxygen isotope values for Novato.

Table 5b. Summary of chromium isotope values for Novato, compared with mean values from other meteorites.

Table 6a. Novato trajectory from all Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS)…

Table 6b. Overview of Novato orbit determinations (Equinox J2000).

Table 7. Summary of the infrasound signal measurements…

Table 8a. Massic activities of cosmogenic radionuclides … measured by nondestructive gamma-ray spectroscopy.

Table 8b. Concentrations of U, Th, and K … measured by nondestructive gamma-ray spectroscopy.

Table 9a. Noble gas (He, Ne, Ar) analysis of two samples, 22.8 mg of N01-2b-7 and 47.8 mg of N01-2b-14.

Table 9b. Krypton abundances and isotope ratios (84Kr = 100) in Novato samples.

Table 9c. Xenon abundances and isotope ratios (132Xe = 100) in Novato samples.

Table 10. Thermoluminescence data for the light and dark lithologies of the Novato meteorite…

Table 11. Summary of 1H NMR section integrals for light and dark lithology methanolic extracts.

Table 12. Summary of the amino acid analysis from methanol spray sampling for light and dark lithologies of Novato N01-2a.

Table 13. Carbon and nitrogen stepped combustion data from Novato N01-1e.

Table 14a. Overview of other known L chondrite falls …

Table 14b. The calculated dynamical lifetime for meteoroids…

This may be the most thoroughly studied L6-chondrite fall.

In closing, I would like to invite anyone who has an interest, and is in the San Diego area, to this years installment of The Meteorite & Tektite Party which has had a long tradition here in Southern California. It will be held on September 14th. It was a lot of fun last year (where the main entertainment became an impromptu show & tell of meteorites), and I’m looking forward to seeing everyones latest acquistions this year.

This small fete will, again, be held at the same venue as last year, as well as, where my 65th Birthday Party was held two years ago, and is where I got the idea to resurrect the old Annual Tektite Party (hosted by Paul Harris and Jim Tobin) that I used to attend 10 years ago in Torrance, California.

This year the “Meteorite & Tektite Party”, again, is an open event to anyone that will be “in the San Diego area” or is willing to travel down the Interstates to San Marcos, California. The credit for actually organizing and running this event goes to my better-half, Monika Waiblinger. She suggested that we have another Party on her Facebook Group called the “California Meteorite Club“. We have confirmation from people who live in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles that they will be attending the Party this year.

Moni will be setting up tables for meteorite displays, since it seemed that everyone brought a meteorite with them last year. There’s a rumor that there will be a birthday cake this year for Boumdeid (2011). There will be some discussion about having a “slab exchange” (trade specimens), or a “silent auction”, or even giving talks and presentations at next years Meteorite Party.

Hope that you get this invitation in time and can make it. See you there.


— Meteoritics & Planetary Science | Volume 49, Issue 8, pages 1388–1425, August 2014 —
Fall, recovery, and characterization of the Novato L6 chondrite breccia” —
Meteoritics & Planetary Science 1–38 (2014) doi: 10.1111/maps.12323

— NASA Press Release – Ames Research Lab:
NASA, Partners Reveal California Meteorite’s Rough and Tumble Journey” —
Published online 15 August 2014

Collision history written in rock ” Nature 512, 350 (28 August 2014) doi:10.1038/512350c
Published online 27 August 2014

For a “copy” of the published paper | click on REPRINT on the “Nature – International Weekly Journal of Science” website.

Search the Meteoritical Bulletin Database for California meteorite fall with “name” : Novato

“Bob’s Findings” — An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine by Robert Verish (November 1, 2012) —
The Recovery of the “Novato” Meteorite that Fell on 2012 October 18, 02:44 UT (Oct. 17, 19:44 PDT)” —
A compilation of field reports – images – news items regarding this California meteorite fall.

My previous articles can be found *HERE*

For more information, please contact me by email:


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