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Meteorites common in Central Alberta

ANTHONY KOVATS QMI Agency

We are never alone. As mankind continues to plod its way into the stars, it's sometimes easy to forget that heavenly bodies, which blaze across the night's sky only to hammer into the earth, constantly visit us.

These visitors are meteors, the stuff of legend, fear and even faith among ancient peoples.

And those violent visits still speak to us today, not through mysticism or legend, but through science. After all, we are dealing with an extraterrestria-an untold billion-year-old chunk of rock that has been hurtling through untold reaches of space.

Amateur astronomer and author Anthony Whyte says that the exploration of space begins in our own backyard. It's an epic mystery that can fill in the missing pieces of our past and tell how the landscape was, and is, forever changed by each impact.

His new book, The Meteorites of Alberta, is a journey that delves into the history of this province and the explorers who are still peeling away the legends to find the facts.

"The more I read about this, the more and more interesting tales I discovered. I said '... it's a shame this stuff isn't more widely known."

Meteorites have always been a fascination for Whyte. He's been a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for more than three decades and even met his wife through the society, but his interest really piqued about 12 years ago, when helping his daughter with a school science project.

To lend authenticity to her project and to breathe some life into dusty research papers that Whyte admits he voraciously digests, he took his daughter into the field. What better classroom is there?

The destination was Alberta's Badlands and the search for the legendary K-T Boundary, a thin crust of sedimentary rock separating two very distinct periods in history: the end of the Mesozoic era, and the rebirth of the planet, the Cenozoic era, after years of darkness-in short, the big meteorite many scientists suggest pummeled the earth and the ensuing dust cloud and fallout of dust and debris that blocked out any sunlight wiping life of the proverbial map. . . the end of the dinosaur.

Whyte and his daughter hunted through the Badlands, and while not as easy as he first thought, the father and daughter team did find an example of Alvarez' K-T discovery, the thin anomaly separating millions of years of history.

From that expedition, Whyte realized that Alberta is rich in meteorites and he cites examples like the 1,100-year-old crater near Whitecourt; finds near Ferintosh, Vulcan, Kinsella, Mayerthorpe, Bruderheim; the nationally acclaimed Edmonton meteorite to the almost mystical Iron Creek meteor. The list is endless.

But none of this is new. Meteor hunters have been scouring the province for nigh a century and have gone to great lengths to find these extraterrestrials, even plumbing the depths of Lake Wabamun or slogging through countless square kilometres of bogs and forest on a hunch of a reported sighting.

The '60s were a golden decade in Alberta's meteor hunting history. No fewer than seven were found in an eight-year span, a record unequalled in Canada until the 21 Century.

"This is exciting stuff, but it's not widely disseminated so hopefully my book makes it more widely known,," said Whyte. But what he may not have realized even as he penned the book, is that it really is a traveler's field guide.



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