LOTUS, CA - Meteorite hunters are flooding into this historic Gold Rush canyon in search of a new kind of gold, black meteorites that hit above the Sierra last Sunday morning.
The meteoriod sent a flash across the morning sky along with a shock wave that send people into the streets a little after 8 a.m.
Now, it's meteorite hunters like Robert Ward of Prescott, Ariz. who are flocking to this canyon on the South Fork of the American River to find the remnants of a meteoriod estimated to have been the size of a mini-van when it broke apart and fell into the area.
"This is a cm-2 carbonacious chondrite (meteorite). It is one of the oldest meteorites known to man and it's also one of the most fascinating meteorites to science," Ward said, as he scoured Lotus Park for another find.
Ward found the meteorite near the park on Tuesday.
Another meteorite was found by NASA scientist Peter Jenniskens on the park's parking lot.
"On his way outta here, he just stopped in this park to look around and he found one of the small meteorites," NASA scientist Scott Sandford, Ph.D., said.
The discoveries are especially valuable to scientists.
"A primitive-type of meteorite can tell us an awful lot about the early stages of our solar system, so it is scientific gold in that respect," Sanford said.
Elementary school students Alvin Wolf and buddy Dustin Bunge showed up at the park to do their own search, hoping to find their own piece of history.
"We'd probably sell it. Keep it in a bag and if NASA wanted to do stuff on it. Yeah," the pair said excitedly as they walked the lot and got some hunting advice from Ward.
"Good eyes! You're looking for something black and that's certainly black," said Ward, eyeing a piece of rock the pair had found.
It turned out to be a piece of basaltic rock instead of the latest meteorite find.
Ward said he'd already been contacted by scientists worldwide about his latest find.
"It contains complex amino acids," Ward said. "It contains organic molecules. This thing is just a treasure trove of data for scientists."
For gold hunter Randy Freeman of Garden Valley, looking for meteorites seemed to come naturally, after hearing the huge boom over his home Sunday morning.
"It's like a giant easter egg hunt for adults," Freeman said.
Meteorite hunter David Gheesling of Atlanta is CEO of a company, until he can get away to hunt for meteorites.
"I collect. And I do a lot of educational outreach work in Atlanta. Probably touch maybe 5,000 students a year," Gheesling said.
So far, only two fragments have been found, and experts are surprised others haven't been found. They believe other larger pieces are in the vicinity.
And it is not lost on those in the hunt that James Marshall first found gold in 1848 in the tailrace of a mill just a mile away in Coloma.
"I had that same thought. First the gold came outta the ground, now it comes out of the skies," Sanford said. "I think naming it Sutter's Mill would be a great idea."
If you find a piece of the meteor or have photos or video of the fireball on Sunday morning, NASA scientist Peter Jenniskens would like you to call him at his office at (650) 224-8276.