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Day-by-day tally


video This example video [233 MByte, avi format] shows the results from one camera in the night of November 1. Early in the night, clouds obscure the stars. Airplanes are seen passing through the field of view. Later, the sky clears and numerous meteors are being detected.

Key Personnel:

Dr. Peter Jenniskens,
SETI Institute, Principal Investigator
[Career pages]

Peter S. Gural,
S.A.I.C., meteor detection algoritms

BCSI logo
Matt Day and Lorena Perez,
Border Collie Solutions, Inc., video surveillance

Rick Morales,
Fremont Peak Observatory

Bryant Grigsby,
Support Astronomer at Mt. Hamilton's Lick Observatory
[Career pages]

Jeremie Vaubaillon,
Observatoire de Paris, France, Meteor stream dynamics modelling
[Career pages]

David Nesvorny,
SWRI, Boulder, zodiacal dust cloud modelling
[Career pages]

Novato fireball
MAPS August issue cover: The October 17, 2012, Novato meteorite fall in images taken from Santa Rosa by Robert P. Moreno, Jr., compliation by J. Albers and P. Jenniskens. [Higher resolution version]

2014, August 15 - Two manuscripts from a consortium study of the Novato meteorite will be published in the August issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. [Manuscripts online at EarlyView] [NASA press release]

Mission statement - CAMS is an automated video surveillance of the night sky in search of meteors to validate minor showers in the IAU Working List of Meteor Showers. Stations are located in California. [Contact]

FPO Clear Sky Clock:
Lick Clear Sky Clock:
Mountain View Clear Sky Clock:
Lodi Clear Sky Clock:

2012 October 17 SF Bay Area fireball:

CAMS tracking of the fireball led Lisa Webber to find the first meteorite in Novato. To report video/photographs and possible meteorite finds, please email:

Report visual accounts of the fireball sighting here.

[Novato Meteorite Consortium website]

News blog:

2013, January 22 - A third meteorite event will be hosted in the East Bay by the Mount Diablo Astronomial Society at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek from 7:15 to 9:15 pm on Tuesday January 22nd. Peter Jenniskens will give a popular presentation about the Novato meteorite fall. We hope to show examples of this meteorite and examine possible new finds.

Sampling of N01

2013, January 10 - Samples of N01 were distributed to Novato meteorite consortium members today, following a controlled break at NASA Ames Research Center. The breaking permitted the measurement of the tensile strength. When the inside of the meteorite was revealed, it turned out to be mostly of the dark lithology variety. Only small outside parts of Novato N01 were light colored. Fragment N01-1d was returned to the Rivera family.

2012, December 19 - The second meteorite event for the Novato meteorite fall was held at the Randall Museum in San Francisco this evening. Peter Jenniskens gave an overview of the circumstances of the Novato fall and the results from the first investigations. Hours before the meeting, a massive daytime fireball was seen by many in the Bay Area, but indications are that any remnants would have fallen in the ocean.

2012, December 14 - Sad and Joyfull news from Bryant Grigsby. At Lick Observatory, Greg Sulger passed away this week in a freak accident. Greg was a personal friend. Bryant writes: "Greg did a small part in making the CAMS deployment at Lick Observatory possible, but the best part was keeping me company while I was burning DVDs." The end of life comes with the start of a new one: Bryant reports the birth of daughter Gabrielle Maymie Grigsby, who was born today at 9:32 am. She is 7lbs 4 oz and is doing fine along with Gabrielle's mother Karli.

2012, December 13 - During the peak of the Geminid meteor shower today, we obtained at Fremont Peak Observatory the first spectra for software testing purposes of what will become a CAMS Spectrograph (CAMS-S). We still have a long road ahead, with Pete Gural and Anthony Berdeu working on the CAMS-S software development.

Fall area

Graph of the calculated fall area of Novato meteorites

2012, November 19 - The CAMS station at Lick Observatory was also found to contain a record of the October 17 fireball. Camera 164 contains the beginning part. The updated trajectory was used to construct the graph above, showing a 5-mile wide light area where meteorites may have fallen. About 0.2 lb fragments fell near Novato and 2 lb rocks are thought to have fallen near Sonoma. The long THANKSGIVING weekend is coming up.

Meteorite event

Meteorites found so far

Group photo at Meteorite Event in Novato. From left to right: Peter Jenniskens with CAMS meteor imaging and derived trajectory, Lisa Webber holding N06 found by the Kane family (N01 being analysed at the moment), Novato raised astronaut Yvonne Cagle of NASA Ames Research Center, Glenn Rivera holding N02 found by Brien Cook, Robert Cucchiara holding N04 found by Bob Verish, and Jason Utas holding his own N03 and N05. Photo's by Leigh Blair and Luis Rivera.

2012, November 17 - The first "SHOW YOUR ROCK TO AN EXPERT" meteorite event was held at the Presbyterian Church of Novato today, hosted by Lisa and Kent Webber. The meeting went well past its allotted time period of 2-4 pm. 40 residents of Novato attended the event to have their finds checked out. As a pleasant surprise, five of the six Novato meteorites also made it to the meeting, so that attendees could have a good look at what to look for.

Novato N06

Novato N06, found by the Kane family.

The meeting was made possible by the SIXTH METEORITE that was found the Sunday prior. 23 gram Novato N06 looks very similar to the first find. Part of the meteorite was made available for analysis in the Novato meteorite consortium.

Novato N05

Novato N05, found by Jason Utas

2012, November 6 - FIFTH METEORITE FOUND. This one does not looked as shocked as previous meteorites and has a more typical fusion crust. Great news because it means that the impacting asteroid was an interesting little world, with lots of diversity, possibly with much remaining to be sampled. The meteorite was found in Novato by Jason Utas, an undergraduate student of geology at UC Berkeley.

Novato N04

Novato N04, found by Bob Verish

2012, November 5 - FOURTH METEORITE FOUND. Meteorite hunter Bob Verish found a fourth meteorite on pavement in Novato on October 27th. The meteorite partially fragmented upon impact. Great pictures are shown here.

Novato N03

Novato N03, found by Jason Utas

2012, October 27 - THIRD METEORITE FOUND. Jason Utas (a graduate student at UC Berkeley) reported finded the third Novato meteorite on pavement in Novato. A tally of finds is maintained at the Novato meteorite consortium website. This will later allow us to relate properties of diffrent Novato meteorites back to their original location in the impacting asteroid. The new find is number N03.

Glenn Rivera

Novato resident Glenn Rivera onboard Airship Ventures "Eureka" airship over San Francisco on his way to search for Novato meteorite impact sites.

2012, October 25 - AIRSHIP SEARCH FOR LARGE IMPACT SITES. If you live North-North-East of Novato and you saw an airship over (or within a few miles from) your property Friday afternoon, chances are that you could be the owner of a space rock. The airship was following the path of the falling meteorites as calculated from the NASA/CAMS meteor video surveillance project.

The company Airship Ventures provided meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens an opportunity to survey the Novato meteorite strewnfield from above during a normally scheduled transit flight from Moffett Field to Santa Rosa. Navigator on this mission was Jim Albers, the operator of the CAMS Sunnyvale station that captured the fireball on camera. Onboard was also Glenn Rivera, Lisa Webber's neighbour's son, who was assigned spotter duty: scanning the landscape with binoculars to spot the potential impact scars from large meteorites. Ground teams were following the airship to respond to possible sightings.

After briefly visiting Novato to see the impact site at Lisa's house from the perspective of the falling meteorites, Peter, Jim and Glenn flew NNE along the trend line calculated from the CAMS fireball observations. The position of the trend line was greatly improved by Anthony Berdeu (SETI Institute) and Pete Gural (SAIC, the main software architect of CAMS). They measured, frame-by-frame, the centroid of the overexposed images and improved the astrometric precision of the background star positions and the fitted trajectory. The resulting line (no winds) now passes just east of Lisa's home.

No obvious fall sites were spotted, says Jenniskens, but for some locales we will find out who is the property owner to see if we can further investigate.

To further refine the position of the trend line, Jenniskens calls for those living in Novato and Sonoma to check their video security cameras before the archived records are overwritten and see if the October 17 7:44 pm fireball was recorded.

Only such video known so far:
Dash-cam video
Lick Observatory security camera 1 footage (Erik Kovacs)
Lick Observatory security camera 2 (Erik Kovacs)

Glenn Rivera

Position of the trend line derived from NASA/CAMS observations so far (solution 10/25/2012). The airship travelled from "A" to "B" and back to "A". The green cross near "B" marks the geometric impact point, but it is unlikely that fragments travelled as far as that. Most would have fallen in a band about 3 miles on either side (light area) earlier along the track, with 100g rocks falling at about Novato, 1kg at Sonoma, and 10 kg near Yountville.


Glenn posing with Jim Albers (left) and Peter Jenniskens in front of Eureka Airship after completion of the mission.

Airship track

Track of airship.

2nd meteorite found

Novato-2, found by Brien Cook of Sacramento. Right photo shows a slice.

2012, October 24 - SECOND METEORITE CORROBORATES LISA'S FIND! An apology may have been too hasty. Lisa's find is a genuine meteorite, says Jenniskens today. Corroborating evidence came from a second find just like it. On Monday, meteorite hunter Brien Cook of Sacramento found a second (65 gram) stone just like Lisa's, at a location in Novato 2.5 miles southeast of Lisa's find. He initially threw it out, but when he saw the picture of Lisa's find posted below, identified by Jenniskens as a meteorite, he retrieved it from the waste basket on Tuesday. Today, he cut the stone in two and after posting the result found wide support in the meteorite hunter's community that this was an ordinary chondrite, albeit not so ordinary.

We are in the process of finding out exactly what type of meteorite we are dealing with here, says Jenniskens, but we now understand that the layered structure of the fusion crust that made me doubt myself is not the result of terrestrial weathering. That is a big relief! What a privilege to get to study such an unusual and hard to identify meteorite!

layered fusion crust

Layered fusion crust of Novato-1. Photo's by Bob Verish.

2012, October 22 - House hit, but the meteorite remains elusive. We examined the rock with a petrographic microscope yesterday, says Jenniskens, and quickly concluded it was not a meteorite. I sincerely thought it was, based on what appeared to me was remnant fusion crust. On closer inspection, that crust was a product of weathering of a natural rock, not from the heat of entry. I was fooled once also during the Sutter's Mill meteorite fall, when a tar-covered pebble threw me off my guard. Today, I apologized to Lisa Webber and together we searched the area around the house in the hope of finding the elusive rock that hit the roof, but no luck, so far.

2012, October 20 - FIRST METEORITE FOUND! We are meeting in the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott at 1400 Hamilton Parkway in Novato at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning October 21 to continue the search on the last day before the rains come in Sunday night.

Last evening, Peter Jenniskens investigated what appears to be the first confirmed meteorite recovered from this fall. Below is a brief report and some pictures (courtesy P. Jenniskens SETI Institute/NASA ARC). We propose the name Novato meteorite, pending approval by the Meteorite Nomenclature Committee.

Lisa Webber, finder of the meteorite

Lisa Webber

At the time of last Wednesday's fireball, a rock was heard hitting the roof by homeowner Lisa Webber, Administrative Nurse I at the Department of Dermatology of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, an inhabitant of Novato, California. After reading Dave Perlman's article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, describing the NASA/CAMS meteor trajectory predicted impact area centered on Novato, Lisa remembered hearing the sound and went outside to search for the rock that hit.

The CAMS project obtained two views of the fireball track, one by our regular 20-camera station, the other by the single-camera station at San Mateo College. We calculated a trajectory and projected a fall area in the North Bay, from east of Rafael over Novato towards Sonoma/Napa.

Novato meteorite N1

The rock found by Lisa Webber: the Novato meteorite numbered N1. Scale is in inches. Click on picture for higher-res version.

During the search, Lisa found this rock in her yard. It is 61.9 grams, dense (feels heavy) and responds to a magnet (note: better to keep magnets away from meteorites to preserve the natural magnetic field). She contacted Peter Jenniskens and made arrangements, in her absense, for him to meet with neighbours Luis Rivera and Leigh Blair. The meteorite had fallen on the birthday of their son Glenn Rivera.

Investigating the fall site

Luis Rivera climbs on the roof to search for the impact dent.

"I wasn't sure at first", says Jenniskens. "The meteorite looks very unusual, because much of the fusion crust had come off." To help investigate the fall site, Rivera and Jenniskens inspected the recently newly resurfaced roof and Rivera found a small dent that was consistent with the meteorite having hit the roof from a SW direction.

impact dent

Impact dent.

impact dent impact dent

Luis Rivera with impact dent.

The meteorite appears to be a breccia, with light and dark parts. That makes it interesting to find out how diverse this meteorite is from future finds. Jenniskens plans to tally future finds and assign those a find number to possibly relate properties of the meteorites to their location in the strewnfield and association in the asteroid.

"The significance of this find", says Jenniskens, "is that we can now hope to use our fireball trajectory to trace this type of meteorite back to its origins in the asteroid belt."

The find helps define the trend line along which other meteorites would have fallen. The line runs from just east of San Rafael, over west Novato, towards Sonoma. According to Jenniskens, it is likely that larger fragments fell NNE towards Sonoma. Rains are predicted starting this evening, so he hopes that more meteorites will be recovered today.

fireball trajectory from CAMS data

Preliminary trajectory calculated by Peter Jenniskens from Sunnyvale and San Mateo College Observatory CAMS video data.

2012, October 18 - Only one of the three regular 20-camera CAMS stations caught the fireball, the NASA/CAMS Sunnyvale station (Jim Albers). For the two other sites, the fireball was just outside the field of view. Fortunately, thanks to the single-CAMS program run by Dave Sammuels), there was a single-CAMS camera setup at the San Mateo College observatory (Dean Drumheller). That one camera provides the second view for triangulation. The video is too bloomed for the regular software processing to work, but the average frames show a nice streak, which was used to combine with the early trajectory part from Sunnyvale, using AstroRecord and FIRBAL software. The preliminary trajectory is plotted in the image above. The potential fall area is over land. The asteroid entered at a speed of 14 km/s, typical but on the slow side of other meteorite falls for which orbits were determined. Good chance a relatively large fraction of this rock survived. The fall area is in the North Bay. The orbit in space is also rather typical: perihelion distance close to Earth's orbit (q = 0.987 AU) and a low-inclination orbit (about 5 degrees). Much more accurate results will follow from a comprehensive study of the video records. Now, we hope that someone recovers a meteorite on the ground...

[Interview at Sunnyvale Station (Jim Albers and Diana Gilbert)]
[Report of the find]

CAMS fireball images

Example CAMS images. The fireball was recorded on cameras 11, 51 and 152 at Sunnyvale and 210 at College of San Mateo.

fireball image

Bob Moreno in Santa Rosa obtained the most detailed images yet of the fireball. Photo: Robert P. Moreno, Jr.

fireball image

Image of the fading fireball towards the very end by Philip Terzian.

fireball image

Image by Rachel Fritz and Rick Nolthenius of Cabrillo College, Aptos

fireball image

Image by Wes Jones, Belmont

2012, October 17 - At 7:44:29 pm PDT this evening, a bright fireball was seen in the San Francisco Bay Area. The image above was taken by Wes Jones from Belmont. We are checking our CAMS camera results to see if we have a track. Biggest question at the moment is whether this ended over land or ocean. [Lick Observatory security camera footage]

[News archive]

SETI Institute logo Curator: Peter Jenniskens
Responsible NASA Official: Philippe Crane (PAST)

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Hosted by: The SETI Institute