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From space to suburbia

August 21, 2018

Valley's first meteorite fall ends up in a front yard in Glendale; ASU professor says more to be found

Meteorites are totems of great power. Having traversed millions of miles, they command a space in our consciousness shared only by objects like bear claws, sperm whale teeth and dinosaur skulls. 

In the vernacular of meteorites, when someone sees a fireball in the sky and the stones are recovered, it’s called a fall. If a meteorite is simply found on the ground, it is called a find.

In the meteorite world, falls are much sexier.

And this summer, the Valley of the Sun had its first one ever. It was the fifth fall in Arizona history.

This is its story.

Around 8:30 p.m. on the night of July 26, a north Phoenix couple relaxed in their pool when a flash lit up the entire yard.

“It’s what made me look up,” Kay G. told the American Meteorite Society. A bright yellow fireball streaked horizontally across the sky, trailing fragments. A sound like distant thunder boomed multiple times over 60 seconds.

“Very unexpected and unusual,” Kay said.

Eleven other people across the state, from Williams to Tucson, reported seeing the fireball.

More than 7 miles to the southwest, in a tidy cul-de-sac in Arrowhead Ranch’s Hillcrest neighborhood, a black stone fell from space, ending up on pale beige pea gravel in the front yard of a 38-year-old software engineer named Cody Horvath.

There it sat for two weeks, unnoticed until Aug. 14, when Horvath came out to move his truck into the shade, something he routinely does on hot summer days.

“I walked up to it and I thought, ‘Who threw this black rock in my yard?’” he said. “I almost chucked it into the street. Then I noticed the fusion crust. I noticed this rock had been on fire, so I texted my family and said I found a meteorite in the front yard.”

Glendale meteorite ASU Garvie

Meteorite researcher Robert Ward holds the meteorite that fell on July 27. The space rock is the first meteorite fall in the Valley. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Horvath knew Arizona State University has a meteorite collection. He stayed up that night, surfing the net. Eventually he came across a video featuring research professor Laurence Garvie, collections manager of the Center for Meteorite Studies. The center has about 2,000 different types of meteorites in its 40,000 specimen collection. It’s the world’s largest university-based collection.

It’s also a target for anyone who has picked up a strange rock and thinks they’ve found something from space. There is one day a year that the public is invited to bring in what might be a meteorite for identification. The rest of the year, the center’s doors are closed firmly, as is stated — multiple times — on every single page of the center’s website. The university’s meteorite identification program was closed seven years ago because they were overwhelmed with requests. A voicemail asking not to leave messages on the center’s line gets a few messages every day nonetheless.

Horvath emailed Garvie at 11 p.m. that night. Garvie, who was well aware of the July event, happened to be checking his emails late and replied. Horvath texted a few photos. He had the real thing.

“It’s amazing,” Garvie said. “You don’t get much better than that. … What makes this so exciting for me is that it was a ‘secret’ fall. … Here’s this amazing event in the middle of a huge metropolitan area and no one noticed (stones hitting).”

Meteorites are named after where they fell. Horvath’s meteorite will be named Glendale. “It’s wild,” he said. 

Not many people would have recognized the meteorite as something special. Horvath had the eye for detail and knowledge to recognize what he found in his yard.

“He deserves amazing praise for recognizing it,” Garvie said. “This shows the importance of citizen science.”

Meteorite hunters Glendale Arizona ASU

Homeowner Cody Horvath (left) and meteorite researcher Robert Ward (front) discuss the meteorite that fell in the front yard of Horvath's north Glendale home on July 27. Behind them are Laurence Garvie, curator of ASU's Center for Meteorite Studies (left) and researcher Ruben Garcia. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

It’s a chondrite, a stony, non-metallic type of meteorite that has not been modified from melting or differentiation of the parent body. Garvie will need to conduct extensive analysis in his lab to determine what type of chondrite. It will be a year before his paper on the stone is ready for publication.

“It’s something the public knows almost nothing about,” Garvie said. “It’s a lot of work. It’s not just me eyeballing it saying, ‘It’s a whatever.’ It’s hours of work here and hours of work on microscopes and hours of work looking through boring Excel spreadsheets. Then you have to write a report and then you have to submit it to the nomenclature committee and then, assuming everything is okay, you have to publish your findings. So it’s a long, long process.”

Garvie visited Horvath last week with two professional meteorite men, Robert Ward and Ruben Garcia.

Garcia — nicknamed Mr. Meteorite — hunted meteorites for more than 20 years. Now he’s a dealer.

Ward owns the world’s largest private collection of meteorites. He is now approaching 6,000 meteorite finds at almost 600 locations on six continents across the globe, including the recovery of over 20 witnessed falls. In his pursuit of recoveries, he has been shot at and was even imprisoned for two months in the Middle East.

“Man, you looked like a scarecrow when you came back from that one,” Garcia ribbed him.

The July fall was caught on several cameras across the state, as well as radar. Ward looked up the trajectory on the American Meteorite Society website. It ended about 200 feet from where Horvath found his stone.

“Talk about X marks the spot,” Ward said.

But everyone is convinced there are more stones in the area. With multiple sonic booms, “there’s no doubt there’s more stones,” Ward said. “That’s what we want.”

The strewn field Garcia, Garvie and Ward searched is roughly 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. It covers the Hillcrest neighborhood in Arrowhead Ranch. By late last week, the trio had searched a combined total 30 miles.

However, because the fall happened at night, and not many people spend a lot of time in their backyards in the Valley in August, the experts believe the missing stones are on someone’s property, or somewhere on the grounds of the Hillcrest schools. They believe the stones will be within 2 square miles of Deer Valley Road and 75th Avenue in Glendale. Area residents should look for broken roof tiles or a hole in a solar array.

“Those roofs are thick,” Garcia said. “They could be up there.”

Ward bought the meteorite for an undisclosed amount. He donated a chunk to ASU, where it will go into the university’s collection.

And if you suspect you possess a meteorite? ASU’s Earth and Space Exploration Day will be held Oct. 13 on the Tempe campus.

Top photo: Laurence Garvie, curator of ASU's Center for Meteorite Studies, on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, takes a picture of the meteorite that fell in the front yard of Cody Horvath's north Glendale home on July 27. The space rock, a little larger than a golf ball, came down during a monsoon storm. Horvath saw the blackened stone in the pea gravel and was about to throw it into the street when he realized it was a meteorite. It is reported to be the fifth meteorite fall in Arizona, and the first in the Valley. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

ASU welcomes first graduates of new online master’s program

August 21, 2018

In 2017, Arizona State University's School of Politics and Global Studies, with the Center on the Future of War, launched an online master’s degree program in global security and now, one year later, the program is celebrating its first graduating class.

The MA educates students from different backgrounds who study at their own pace, from anywhere in the world, often while working. Students range in age from their early 20s to mid-70s, around half are active duty U.S. military or veterans, and the participants vary widely in terms of their professional experiences and career interests. Some are deeply involved in human rights and international development, others are focused on intelligence and defense issues and still others on training and higher education. MA in Global Security at ASU Four of the recent graduates of ASU's new online master's degree in global security. From left to right: Mike Fior, DJ Gering, Alex Suggs and Tim Ayers. Download Full Image

Timothy Ayers, a 2018 graduate of the MA, worked full-time for the State Department while balancing home life and his coursework. Prior to pursuing graduate school, Ayers spent more than a decade overseas dealing with security matters and international trade relations which he cites as key motivations for selecting the program.

“I was going through the VA’s website and, since I was using the GI Bill to pay for my education, I searched for international relations programs and found the master of arts in global security program,” he said.

The program features lectures and content by some of the nation’s most influential global security thinkers including general officers, former high-ranking officials at the State Department and the National Security Council, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, human rights activists, retired special operations officers and best-selling authors.

“The strongest aspect of the MA is the instructor depth. After that, it is the diverse student body which allowed for intelligent discussion boards each and every week,” Ayers said.

The MA includes a required capstone course in which students produce individual projects that build on skills and issues they learned while in the program. This year, a group of students briefed United States Special Operations Command on a collaborative research project focusing on the role of big data in international security.

“There are few, if any, online programs that can offer the experience to take part in applying theory and coursework you learned to problems that government or private industries have asked for your input on,” said DJ Gering, a graduate of the program.

The master’s degree program provides excellent career training for students who are working in or who aspire to careers in diplomacy, international development, the military, security, global management and humanitarian aid. 

“I was interested in international relations and homeland security during my search for programs. This program seemed to blend those fields and helped to enhance my background in emergency management,” global security graduate Alexander Suggs said.

The program is based on the idea that understanding the rapidly changing nature of conflict and international relations requires a strong grounding in foundational ideas and concepts along with focused intellectual and writing skills to support complex interdisciplinary analysis. The master’s program graduates have gained useful training and knowledge to grapple with today’s global security challenges and pursue a variety of careers.

“The quality of instruction provides an advanced level of knowledge and perspectives that invoke advanced learning, thought and debate,” said Michael Fior, who is pursuing a career in global security policy. “This will help me craft policy recommendations in a government and private sector role.”

Baltazar Hernandez

Center Coordinator, School of Politics and Global Studies