Meteorite fragments found off Washington coast after 8-hour search

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. -- Scientists searching the seafloor off Washington state have found remnants of a meteor that lit up the Pacific Northwest sky and splashed down in March.

Marc Fries, NASA's curator of cosmic dust, said Thursday's search yielded two small fragments, about two millimeters each. They may be small, but they represent a big find, Fries said.

"We now have samples and we couldn't be happier," Fries said.

The fragments must be examined more closely to confirm they came from the meteor but he's optimistic. He says it's the first intentional search for meteorites at sea.

Fries and others used weather radar to locate the splashdown about 16 miles offshore of the Quinault Indian Nation village of Taholah. He and the crew of the vessel Nautilus, operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, searched for 8 hours Thursday using specialized equipment.

The small pieces are like "melted pieces of rock" from the outside of the meteor, Fries said.

Meteorites are bits of material left over from the formation of the solar system.

The meteor was reported by hundreds of people on Washington's Olympic Peninsula in March. The big fireball, called a bolide, shook homes and made an audible sonic boom.

Whether this discovery qualifies as an official meteor find that will require naming, that is up to the Meteorological Society, Fries said. Typically they require an entire meteor to be found before announcing a discovery.