ROV Meteorite Hunt

March 15 2017


On Monday, February 6, 2017, around 1:30 a.m. CST, a sonic boom shook residents of the Midwest as a bright green fireball streaked through the night sky. The sound was that of a meteor, nearly the size of a minivan, entering our atmosphere. After its fall to Earth, radar spotted the end of its journey over Lake Michigan, approximately 10 miles off the coast of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Teen explorers from Chicago, led by scientists from the Adler Planetarium's Far Horizons program, The Shedd Aquarium, and The Field Museum, team up to take on this Underwater ROV Meteorite Hunt. Interested explorers wanted!

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March 15 2017


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Preparation Stage


We're picking up steam as we meet more and more interested scientists and science enthusiasts who are excited by our team's work. This kind of meteorite hunt has very little precedent so we are figuring out each step as we go! Nothing like building a plane while it's in flight!

Our team was able to video conference with NASA Scientist Marc Fries, he works in curation and has done a considerable amount of work calculating meteorite falls from weather radar. (Click the link to one of his papers below) He shared new radar readout images (see images below) that show the fragments caught by radar after the fireball.

Dr. Mark Hammergren, Adler Astronomer, is working on calibrating the videos from the meteor sightings and will be able to calculate where in our solar system the meteorite came from. This is exceptional as this will be one of about 18 meteors that has been able to be tracked to its source from video footage. Finding out the meteorite's point of origin will give us a better understanding of what the meteorite is made of.

Adler Teens have completed our first draft of our PVC underwater ROV and will begin experimenting with neutral buoyancy (see image). Next week we'll be engineering meteorite simulants with teens from the Shedd Aquarium to be used in our underwater detection/retrieval tests with sonar and magnetometers (see images of test meteorites).

We are all grateful for the journey thus far, the chance to teach hands on, applicable science, and collaborate with scientists across fields of study. What an adventure!

Check out Marc Fries' Paper Slightly Cloudy with a Chance of Chondrites

20,000 Leagues Under the Stars,

Chris Bresky

Far Horizons Adler Teen Programs Specialist

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Exciting News from NASA Scientist - Marc Fries about our meteorite!

"I can confidently say that this meteorite fall was one of the largest in terms of total mass of the roughly two-dozen falls seen in RADAR imagery since 1998. "


We're deep in planning mode! Our "Deep Space Dive Team" scientists met recently to talk details about the hunt. Greg Regnier of Great Lakes Expeditions, along with Dr. Philip Willink, Senior Research Biologist at the Shedd Aquarium, described the capabilities of the underwater scanning equipment.(See Video)

Dr. Mark Hammergren, Astronomer at the Adler Planetarium, and Philipp R. Heck, Associate Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies at the Field Museum, brainstormed techniques to test the scanning equipment. They proposed engineering faux meteorite fragments, creating a strewn field underwater, and testing the readouts of the scanning equipment.

Adler Planetarium After School Hangout Teens have begun engineering a basic, PVC framed ROV, to understand the engineering skills, and underwater science needed, to perform an underwater meteorite expedition. (See Pictures)

We'll begin initial underwater tests this month and plan on joining the these Open Explorers in June to begin to understand the bottom of Lake Michigan in this area. Stay tuned for more updates soon and we'd love to have you all come along for the journey.

20,000 Leagues Under the Stars

  • Chris Bresky Far Horizons Adler Planetarium Teen Programs
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This is so cool. Thanks for the update!

Thanks Andrew! We'll be talking more to NOAA today about how our projects can help each other as well! [Here is there Lake MichiganMarine Sanctuary Project] ( It is incredible how close the two happen to be!

Expedition Background

The Adler Planetarium's Far Horizons Program has one mission: bring real space exploration down to Earth and into the hands of students, volunteers, and the public. On Monday, February 6, 2017, around 1:30am CST, a bit of space literally came to Earth and splashed down in our own backyard! Enthused by the hands on science this brings teens of Chicago, and the ability to collaborate with scientists across fields, the planning for this expedition began.

All parties involved understand the difficulty of this task, the "needle in a haystack" odds of this endeavor, and it drives us all the more to challenge teens of Far Horizons to engineer innovative ways to find and retrieve these meteorites. The STEM Professionals that work and volunteer in the Far Horizons Lab offer our team of teens helpful insights with their design concepts. Astronomers from The Adler Planetarium, and founding members of Far Horizons, Dr. Mark Hammergren and Dr. Shane Larson, enrich our student's understanding of the space science that brought this meteorite to our own back door.Dr. Philipp R. Heck, meteoritics expert from The Field Museum, has given our team insight into the possible make up of these meteorites and ways to detect them. Marc Fries, a scientist from NASA, and a colleague of Dr. Philipp R. Heck, calculated the radar data from the meteorite's path and has created a map that predicts locations of the meteorites (and size distribution), which will prove crucial in our hunt. We are also consulting with the Senior Research Biologist of the Shedd Aquarium, Dr. Philip Willink, to understand the environment of the lake bottom. Dr. WIllink is interested in this expedition, not only for a chance to find hunks of rock from space, but also to capture data of the lake floor that have not been clearly mapped in the past.

In 2003, a similar sized meteorite landed in Chicago, many of the larger fragments were around the size of softballs. The image below crashed through a Chicagoans roof and landed in their laundry! Dr. Philipp R. Heck assumes, from the size and color of the fireball that we are dealing with a similar size and make up of the Park Forest Meteorite (image seen below, Adler Planetarium).

This spring we'll continue to consult with experts as we prepare for our Meteorite Hunt scheduled for the summer (July/August). Everyone involved has a lot to learn from each other as the task of underwater meteorite recovery is rarely undertaken. We look forward to sharing with the Open Explorer Community, build Far Horizon's first OpenROV (to explore Far Horizons of the deep!) and welcome all interested explorers in the Great Lakes region who have access to equipment to join the search. We'll learn a lot from this journey, and hope you will too.

Deep Dives!

Chris Bresky

Far Horizons Teen Programs Specialist Adler Planetarium

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This is just amazing Chris! I want to come help with the hunt!

David, we would love that! The more eyes in the water the better! We have a meeting with the Shedd, Field and Adler crews on April 5th. Will share out the summary of the meeting on Open Explorer and keep you posted! I know their is interest in mods for the Open ROV for picking up objects (ie dense lil rocks from space) and perhaps metal detection/magnetometers. Please let us know if you have any thoughts! - Chris

Cheers Chris, Love it the mashup of space science and underwater technical hunting! I'm subscribed and excited for updates.

Thanks Kevin! We'll have more updates next week!

Hi Chris--we're hoping to have some room for a few of you on our June 2 expedition (see if you'd like to scout out the area a little bit.

That would be wonderful! We'd love to.