Dayton Meteorite is a scientific gem with colorful, clouded history

Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 @ 10:57 AM
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 @ 10:57 AM


            Dayton Meteorite is a scientific gem with colorful, clouded history

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July 17, 2006 edition of the Dayton Daily News.

Nobody is certain of its exact history, but a meteorite that lore says landed in the 1890s at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds has provided important clues as to how the solar system formed.

Of all the otherworldly buzz linked to Dayton since manned flight took off and Hollywood extraterrestrials slithered onto the scene, few celestial objects are as little-known to the public as a chunk of iron space debris known as the Dayton meteorite now housed in a secure cabinet at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

This particular meteorite, celebrated in scientific circles, is one of 35,000 specimens stored in the National Museum of Natural History Building on the National Mall.

It’s not in its original shape because so many slices have been taken for scientific research. The meteorite’s unusual composition has made it a popular subject, said Tim McCoy, the Smithsonian’s meteorite curator. McCoy is quick to note that his Ph.D. research dealt with the Dayton meteorite.

Up to 3 million visitors annually who pass through the spectacular, glittering displays of gems and minerals, including the Hope Diamond, can see a piece of the meteorite.

The Dayton Daily News published articles about the meteorite in 1951, and in 1966. But in the years that followed, the meteorite was largely forgotten, even as it was being sliced and diced and examined by inquiring minds.

Meteorite’s history

As fall faded into winter in 1951, Chinese forces invaded the capital of Tibet, NATO accepted Greece and Turkey as members and on Oct. 4, the Daily News reported that Smithsonian Institution officials identified the Dayton meteorite as Ohio’s ninth. Oddly enough, it was noted, six of those nine verified Ohio meteorites had fallen in or near the Miami Valley. The Dayton meteorite, however, already had a colorful history.

It had been sent to the Smithsonian by Stuart H. Perry, editor and publisher of the Adrian (Mich.) Telegram, who also was an amateur meteorite collector.

Perry came into possession of the iron through L.R. Keyser, a University of Cincinnati student whose grandfather, Albert Seifert, ran a concession stand at county fairs.

The story handed down from the family is that during a summer evening in 1892 or 1893, the meteor came screaming from the sky before it hit the Montgomery County Fairgrounds with such force that it buried itself four feet into the ground. It was smoldering when recovered.

Scientists believe otherwise. No mention of the meteor’s fall ever made it into scientific literature, and Dayton at the time was flourishing. Further, the meteorite showed signs of weathering that indicated it hadn’t landed in modern times.

It’s quite possible Seifert bought the meteorite from a farmer he met at a fair, scientists now believe. Seifert perhaps had a motive to hype the meteorite’s recovery. As a concession stand operator, he had the meteorite on hand during lengthy travels on the county fair circuit through Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, and he likely used it as a novel customer draw, McCoy said.

“People could see (it) … and buy something from the concession stand,’’ McCoy said.

How meteors form

Falling stars continue to fascinate. Andrea Koziol, professor of mineralogy at the University of Dayton and president of the Dayton Gem and Mineral Society, said she receives three or four inquiries a year from those who believe they’ve found a meteorite. She has yet to identify the real thing. The key sign is what is known as a fusion crust, indicating a fiery descent through the atmosphere, Koziol said.

“As the meteor comes in, it gets very hot. But only the surface gets hot. The exterior is burned and melted. That is the key giveaway,” she said.

Meteorite revealed

Whether dug up by plow in a farmer’s field or discovered smoldering beside a fairground horse barn, no one will probably never know.

What is known, McCoy said, is that the 4.5 billion-year-old meteor once orbited the sun in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter until it collided with another object, which sent it hurtling in our direction.

Iron meteorites are generally thought to have formed in the cores of asteroids, McCoy said. The Dayton meterorite solidified later than other meteorites, which left it with a very high percentage of nickel.

It led to other oddities, such as having two phosphate minerals present that occur nowhere else in the solar system.

Meteorite’s meaning

What all this means is that although technology isn’t advanced enough to allow us to sample the Earth’s core, we can learn how it might be composed by studying meteorites.

“When the hot, molten core crystallizes and changes from a liquid to a solid, certain elements give us clues to how that happens,” McCoy said.

It’s significant, McCoy said, that while most iron meteorites contain 5 percent to 10 percent nickel, Dayton contains 17.6 percent. Nickel is an element that provides clues about the transition from a molten to a solid state.

The later an iron meteorite crystallizes, the more nickel it will contain, McCoy said. “To make matters more interesting, Dayton probably formed in a different way from our own core. As asteroids began to heat up and melt, the metal that melted first may have formed a very small core. Only with much more heating and melting did a large core, like the Earth’s, form,” McCoy said.

“The asteroid from which Dayton formed apparently never reached this higher stage of melting, so it came from a very small core. One of the interesting features of this core is that it contained bits of all kinds of other stuff, including elements like phosphorus, sulfur and carbon and even pieces of silicates like those that you might find in rocks around you. This core had a long time to stew and the elements and rock bits began to react.”

The reaction produced minerals found nowhere else, McCoy said. Brianite and panethite are phosphates — much like fertilizers or the minerals in teeth — but they have very strange compositions, he added.

“Dayton is the weirdest one of its group,” McCoy said. “Again, that makes it special and the reason scientists want to study it.“

Ultimately, the meteorite offers clues to how the Earth’s core might have formed and the chemical reactions that occurred during the birth of our planet, McCoy said.

“Whether it is from the city of Dayton or not, the citizens there should be justifiably proud to have contributed a one-of-a-kind meteorite that answers — and continues to pose — such profound questions,” he said.

WHAT are meteors?

• Material falling from interplanetary space through Earth’s atmosphere is called a meteor.

• Bolides are larger, fireball meteors.

• A meteroid has not yet entered Earth’s atmosphere, and a meteorite is a chunk that survived the trip throught the atmosphere to actually strike the Earth.

• There are three major classes of meteorites: stony, iron, and stony-iron.

WHERE do meteors come from?

• Most meteorites come from asteroids, and iron meteorites are believed to form in the core of asteroids. The asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The belt is believed to have been created by debris left over from the formation of the solar system. A collision between two asteroids can send debris headed earthward.

• Planetary meteorites might have come from actual planets. Scientists have determined some meteors that landed in Antartica came from the moon. There have even been some from Mars.

• Many of the smallest micrometeorites are dust from comets.

• Many meteorites preserve chemical and physical properties that were established 4.5 billion years ago and provide some of the best clues about the earliest history of the solar system.

CAN you see some with the naked eye?

• YES. Because Earth’s orbit passes through the same debris clouds periodically, meteor showers can be predicted, like the Perseid meteor shower.

• If you’re lucky, even on average nights sporadic meteors can be seen streaking across the sky at the rate of about five per hour.

TIMELINE OF THE DAYTON METEOR

4.5 billion years ago: Forming the core of an asteroid. The hot, molten core crystallizes and changes from a liquid to a solid.

Sometime in the distant past: Two asteroids collide, sending some iron headed our way. They can spend millions of years orbiting the sun before they fall to Earth. Meteorites range in mass from less than a gram to more than 50 tons.

Later, sometime in the distant past: The Dayton Meteor streaks across the sky and likely lands somewhere in the Dayton region.

1890s: County fair concession operator Albert Seifert comes into possession of the meteor, possibly by obtaining it from a farmer who found it in a field. For some time, Seifert takes it on his circuit of county fairs in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The story handed down in the family is that the meteor fell to Earth in the early 1890s and landed at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, hot to the touch.

1951: Dayton Meteor is conveyed to the Smithsonian Institution by a Michigan newspaper editor. It begins to be examined by scientists, who quickly determine it’s an unusual find, saying its iron is different from all other known meteorites from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Dayton Daily News article on Oct. 4, 1951, is headlined, “Smithsonian Identifies Officially Ohio’s 9th Meteorite.” E.P. Henderson, associate curator, tells the Daily News that the surface of the meteor has no flight markings indicating that the original ‘flight crust” formed when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere had been lost in the years of weathering while buried in the ground, thus scientists doubt the meteor fell in modern times.

October, 1975: “On the occurrence of brianite and panethite, two new phosphate minerals from the Dayton meteorite,” is published in the Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 31, Issue 10. 1975: Vagn Buchwald, in a seminal 1975 work on iron meteorites, mentions the Dayton Meteor and discusses a bit about its history.

Today: A piece of the Dayton Meteorite is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Building.

Child deaths in Fairfield, Hamilton investigated

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 10:20 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 11:45 AM

Child deaths in Fairfield, Hamilton investigated

Police in Hamilton and Fairfield are each conducting child death investigations today, the Journal-News has confirmed.

Hamilton police Sgt. Brian Robinson confirmed a child death investigation is underway but declined to provide more details.

Police were called to a home on North 6th Street early this morning.

The Butler County Coroner’s Office was also called to a child death investigation in Fairfield in the past 24 hours, Martin Schneider of the coroner’s office told the Journal-News.

Fairfield police said they are investing a child death at an apartment in the 1500 block of Gelhot Drive.

Police were called to the apartment at about 4:30 a.m. today about an unresponsive one-month-old baby.

The child was transported to Mercy Hospital-Fairfield, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.

WATCH: Dr. Phil's interview with Florida face biter released

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 10:31 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 11:24 AM


            WATCH: Dr. Phil's interview with Florida face biter released

A 20-minute video released by a Florida state attorney’s office shows accused face-biting killer Austin Harrouff conducting a video-chat interview from a hospital room on the “Dr. Phil Show.”

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In early parts of the video, Dr. Phil McGraw asks Harrouff, 20, if he is aware that he had made a shift in his thinking that was making people uncomfortable.

“Not really,” Harrouff said. “I was aware that I became more serious and things, but I wasn’t aware that I was pushing people away. I didn’t know it was affecting my relationship with my friends.”

They discuss the content of videos that Harrouff posted on YouTube, with Dr. Phil asking Harrouff whether he ever used steroids.

“Never,” Harrouff replied. “Never tried it once.”

The conversation shifts to theories that Harrouff might have used flakka, and Harrouff is asked if he knows what flakka is.

“Is it a crystal or something?” Harrouff asks. “I don’t know. My dad told me it was a crystal or something.”

Harrouff says he’s never taken flakka or seen the drug. He is asked whether anyone could have slipped the drug into his food or something he drank.

“I drank some tea at Duffy’s, so I was told,” Harrouff said. “I don’t think they would poison me or anybody would poison me. “

Harrouff emphasizes that those substances will not be found in his toxicology reports. He says that he has never seen or heard of bath salts.

The conversation then shifts to Harrouff leaving dinner at Duffy’s.

“When you left there, were you confused or were you thinking straight, in your opinion?” Dr. Phil asks.

“I don’t remember thinking at all,” Harrouff said. “It’s like a blur. I don’t think I was thinking straight.”

Harrouff walks Dr. Phil through the evening of Aug. 15 in Martin County, Florida. He tells Dr. Phil that he didn’t understand what was happening.

“At the end, I remember saving a dog and hijacking a car, and then it’s a blur,” Harrouff says. ”It’s like it happened, but, like, I wasn’t aware of it at the time ...I’m so sorry. It’s like a nightmare. I never wanted this to happen.”

Harrouff’s attorneys argued that the video shouldn’t be released before the trial. “Sensationalizing the details of this case pretrial does nothing to advance justice in the courtroom,” attorney Nellie King said.

Harrouff is charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 15 deaths of Michelle Mischon, 53, and her husband, John Stevens, 59, at their home near the Martin and Palm Beach county lines. The story made national headlines after investigators said deputies found Harrouff biting Stevens’ face. Court documents indicate that Harrouff told detectives that he “ate something bad.” When he was asked what that was, he replied, “Humans.”

King, one of Harrouff’s attorneys, said in a statement late Monday that the interview with Dr. Phil is “just one of many pieces of evidence demonstrating the deterioration of Austin’s mental health.”

Martin County Circuit Judge Lawrence Mirman ruled in favor of open records and stated the release of the video, recorded Oct. 3 but never shown on the “Dr. Phil” show, would not be “necessary to prevent a serious and imminent threat to a fair trial” for Harrouff.

“From its content, it is apparent that this video interview (with Austin Harrouff) was conducted at the request of the defendant or, more likely, his father while the defendant was hospitalized after the events giving rise to his arrest,” Mirman wrote in the ruling.

Harrouff’s father, Wade Harrouff, spoke with Dr. Phil after the killings as well. A teary-eyed Wade Harrouff apologized, saying “something went way wrong.” He insisted that his son isn’t a monster. 

Prosecutor’s employee who stole $90,000 sentenced

Published: Monday, February 27, 2017 @ 2:24 PM

Prosecutor’s employee who stole $90,000 sentenced

Update@11:30 a.m. (Feb. 28):

Bruns appeared in court this morning, and was sentenced to 36 months, with 32 months suspended-120 days in local jail. He also must pay $39,830 from his retirement account.

"I just want to apologize to Mat Heck, the prosecutors, " and to the citizens of Montgomery County, Bruns said.

First report:

The former Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office employee who stole nearly $90,000 from the county lied about his involvement and only fully confessed when investigators looked deeper, according to a sentencing memorandum filed Monday by the special prosecutor.

“Mr. Bruns only came clean when his fraud became known,” prosecutors wrote. ‘There was a paper trail to him, and he had to know once the trail was investigated he would be discovered.”

RELATED: Bruns made ‘series of bad choices’

David Bruns, 48, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday by visiting Judge Linton D. Lewis, who retired from Perry County. Bruns pleaded guilty in December to theft in office and tampering with government records, both felonies.

Bruns worked in the delinquent tax assessment unit and legally made about $36,000 per year. Bruns is the husband of Julie Bruns, who is the head of Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr.’s juvenile division and also Heck’s second cousin.

EARLIER: Bruns pleads guilty to theft in office

The sentencing memo written by Franklin County Prosecutor Ronald O’Brien and assistant Jeffrey Blake disputes that the case was self-reported. The thefts began in December 2011, according to court documents.

“The discovery of the above crimes came about only because an outside individual was questioning an allocation of $40,116 to Skyfall Properties in a foreclosure matter,” prosecutors wrote, adding that Buns advised his supervisor the week of Aug. 8, 2016, that he spoke to the company and was told it was an error.

“Only later on Aug. 15, 2016, did Mr. Bruns confess he was Skyfall Properties. Also, at this time he did not admit to the full amount of his criminal activity.”

MORE: Stolen money should have funded foreclosures 

Prosecutors wrote that Bruns first admitted to some theft Aug. 17, 2016, and that he used other methods to steal money. As investigators searched further, Bruns then admitted and cooperated with investigators and said the theft amount was closer to $90,000 than the original $40,116. Bruns was fired Aug. 22, 2016.

“Though the State asserts the claim that this was self-reporting is inaccurate, the State still agrees to the joint recommendation for community control if restitution is fully made,” prosecutors wrote. “The State asks for the Court to impose any and all local sanctions that it feels appropriate.”

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Dayton man survived bomber crash, burns, Gestapo in extraordinary life

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 11:24 AM

A Polish Air Force bomber gunner who survived being shot down at the outbreak of World War II and forced into slave labor by Hitler’s secret police before settling in Dayton has died.

Czeslaw “Chet” Makiewicz, who raised eight children in Dayton, was 98.

“We really realize how good a man he was as we got older and watching him and hearing his stories about all he went through,” said Hanka Brown of Euclid, Makiewicz’s oldest child. “There wasn’t a whole lot of flash or noise about him. He did what he thought he needed to do and took care of us.”

Makiewicz was born in Poland in 1919 and graduated from the Polish Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer School in 1938. In 1939, his plane was shot down. Locals kept him hidden and helped Makiewicz recover from severe burns to both hands and face, but the Gestapo found and arrested him in 1942. Before Makiewicz was put in a prison camp where he was used as slave labor on various farms, he was interrogated for any Polish Air Force intelligence, Brown said.

When initially placed in solitary confinement, Makiewicz was able to pass time with a prisoner in the next cell playing a game that was always important in his life, Brown said.

“They played chess by tapping on the wall and kept the pieces in their heads,” she said. “He played chess basically in his mind with the other guy.”

After laboring on one of the farms, Makiewicz met his future wife Martha Morl and worked for an American Army contractor.

In May 1949, Makiewicz, his wife and two daughters immigrated to the U.S., first moving to Nebraska. While there, he learned the plumbing trade, and they then moved to Dayton in 1956, signing up with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 162.

Martha Makiewicz died in 2015.

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“I remember him working a lot. He was always looking for ways to support us,” said daughter Sylvia Makiewicz of Dayton. “Sometimes he had two jobs.”

At times he would sometimes carry three jobs, the daughters said, including one at the now-shuttered Defense Electronics Supply in Kettering.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of money then,” Sylvia said. “He was good father and grounded in responsibility.”

Though English was his fourth language after Polish, German and Russian, Makiewicz and Martha, who was born in Czechoslovakia, headed an English-only American household, Brown said.

“When they came over here, their intent was to learn English. So we really never had another language other than English in our home,” Brown said. “They wanted to get assimilated. And they especially wanted us to grow up assimilated into the American culture.”

» FIND MORE: Dayton Daily News obituaries online

Brown said her father always stressed the importance of education and showed his children unwavering support.

“I always thought he was proud of us all. He was happy in our accomplishments,” Brown said. “He would always kind of push us to get there. He was always very supportive in our education and to go on to higher education.”

Though always working, Makiewicz set aside time to enjoy life and take part in the community, his daughters said.

“He made sure that we still had fun,” Brown said. “With eight kids, he didn’t have a whole lot of room as far as expenses were concerned. But he did what he could.”

Family favorites included picnics, the annual Easter egg hunt at the Polish Club, Christmas parties, outings to the state parks and summer drives topped with ice cream cones.

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He gave his children access to a strong educational system where they learned the tools for successful lives. He was an enthusiastic member of the Polish National Alliance, and in his later life handled the insurance sales and accounting for the local branch.

Away from work, Makiewicz also enjoyed fishing and gardening. He was a fixture at the Polish National Alliance lodge. 

In about 1973, Makiewicz returned to Poland to visit relatives. By then, he could do so without fear of capture. 

There was one relative he never saw again after 1939: his mother Bronislawa Makiewicz. The Iron Curtain prevented him from learning of her 1956 death. He didn’t get the news until about 10 years later.

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Makiewicz is survived by eight children: Hanka (James) Brown, Sylvia Makiewicz, Liza Makiewicz, Alice (Geri Cox) Makiewicz, Susan (James) Lemon, Mark Makiewicz, Timothy (Cher Clark) Makiewicz, and Andrew (Marilyn) Makiewicz. He also leaves behind 15 grandchildren with 10 spouses and 20 great grandchildren. 

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Friday at St. Adalbert Church, 1212 St. Adalbert Ave, Dayton. The family will receive friends from 11 a.m. until time of services. Interment to follow at Calvary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Our Lady of the Rosary, 22 Notre Dame Dayton, OH 45404; 937-228-8802 or to the Miami Valley School.