HEALDSBURG, CA — Ten years ago, a geologic discovery in Healdsburg changed how Sonoma State University geologists look at the Northern California landscape.

A resident donated a box of strange-looking stones, running from palm-sized to pebble-sized, many oval-shaped stones with strange pitting and even charred-looking exteriors. When held to the light, many are opaque, like dark obsidian glass.

Sonoma State Professor Emeritus and Geologist Rolfe Erickson discovered that these were not stones but “tektites,” bits of combined meteoric and superheated silica that exploded into the atmosphere following a violent meteor strike, froze, then rained down to the earth by the billions.

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“The asteroid would have been traveling faster than a rifle bullet and generated tremendously kinetic energy,” Erickson told the Press Democrat that the discovery of the tektites was a defining moment in his longstanding career as a professor of geology.

The stones actually formed 2.8 million years ago, according to the Berkeley Geochronology Center.

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In their quest to find the location of the strike, the SSU geologists interviewed residents, hearing stories of finding the strange stones in vineyards and across area hillsides. By 2013, over 5,000 stones were discovered from the Warm Springs Dam to the Russian River.

Healdsburgites and Tektites take forms from small round rocks to elongated strands of an obsidian-like quality. (Shutterstock).
In presenting their findings for the newly named Healdburgites, Erickson and others thanked Paul Bernier, Paul LeBrett and Tim Unruh for providing samples from their private collections. Resident Diane O’Connor, who donated a box of tektites to kick off the quest, helped greatly in early field studies, according to Erickson. Most of all, he appreciated the locals who allowed their team to walk around on their land, unencumbered, looking for tektites.

“Sometimes we were successful, sometimes not, and we thank them, too,” he wrote in the group’s final report.

The search for the precise location of the Healdsburg area meteor crater is ongoing. However, experts say it could be anywhere offshore or have eroded or changed due to the geologically active nature of Northern California.

Have you ever found a piece of Healdsburgite? Let us know!

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