Saturday, January 23, 2010

EZ-Guide Exclusive: The Meteorite Men

We want to give you a sneak preview of some of the exclusive articles in the Tucson EZ-Guide - first up Lisa Marie talks with the stars of the hit Science Channel show "Meteorite Men"...

Meteorite Men The Meteorite Men!

By Lisa Marie Morrison


Back in 1998, an unlikely duo met in Odessa, Texas to do a little meteorite hunting on the way to their first-ever visit to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows. Geoffrey Notkin and Steve Arnold had hunted together before, but they could not have expected that ten years later, they would be starring in their own cable network series. Nor could they have predicted the integral role the gem and mineral shows would play in the development of the show Meteorite Men.

In the interim years, Notkin and Arnold would develop reputations as world class meteorite hunters, collectors, and dealers; each establishing their own successful individual businesses. Geoffrey, who is also a widely published science writer, eventually moved to Tucson after becoming enchanted with the desert during his trips to the shows. Geoff and Steve continued to meet each other year after year at the gem and mineral shows and developed great friends and colleagues from within the international meteorite community.

In 2005, Steve Arnold unearthed a 1430-pound Brenham palasite meteorite from a wheat field in Kansas. The news media quickly picked up on the story of this historic find. Then in December 2007, while reading a feature article in the Los Angeles Times about Steve, Ruth Rivin (executive producer at the production company LMNO) recalled a similar clipping from a different periodical. Ruth, who also generates new show ideas for LMNO, contacted Geoff to ask if the pair would ever consider doing an ongoing television series about meteorite hunting. “Having filmed episodes of Cash & Treasuresand Wired Science, and enjoying the experience immensely, Steve and I had already worked up a series proposal,” Geoff recalls. “We were confident there was enough interesting content in the meteorite world to produce three or four seasons of a TV show.”


With the 2008 gem and mineral shows right around the corner, LMNO Productions decided to send Elizabeth Meeker to Tucson to shoot a demo reel. They filmed on location at the InnSuites in the room Geoff’s company shares with Anne Black of Impactika Meteorites and in the scenic foothills of the Tucson Mountains. A five-minute film reel from that day impressed LMNO Productions who signed an exclusive contract with Geoff and Steve.


The idea of a Meteorite Men series was shopped to a number of cable networks and in July of 2008, Science Channel expressed keen interest in the show. They ordered a one-hour special, and in May of 2009, “the pilot episode ofMeteorite Men, Science Channel brought viewers to the farm lands of Brenham, Kansas as Notkin and Arnold searched for pieces of a large meteorite that fell to earth thousands of years ago.” (Science Channel press release.) After airing, the show was picked up by the cable network for six one-hour episodes.


Geoff and Steve had been busy brainstorming ideas of where and with whom to film each episode. “We thought of all the people we’ve met or got to know better over the years at the gem and mineral shows,” Geoff recounts. “Friends and colleagues like Twink Monrad, Sonny Clary and Ruben Garcia. We thought of expert meteoriticists in the field such as Drs. Art Elhmann and Laurence Garvey, academics who could explain the complicated science of meteorites to the viewing public, and complement field guys like Steve and myself.”


The premier of Meteorite Men aired Wednesday, January 20, 2010. Science Channel will run one episode a week for six weeks. The first three episodes overlap the gem and mineral shows and the co-stars have screenings planned for friends and colleagues. “This is the first full TV series ever to combine meteorite hunting, adventure and science. We’re excited to share it with the world,” remarked Steve.


Filmed in and around the Tucson area, the premier episode follows the team’s search for the elusive Tucson Ring meteorite. Coming back full circle to that fateful gem show trip in 1998, the hosts return to the scene of the crime in Odessa, Texas for the second episode of the series. And a rare witnessed fireball in February 2009 over West Texas is the focus of the third episode. “In fact, it was February 15th, our last day of the 2009 gem show, while we were packing up the room at the InnSuites, that I heard about the fireball that would become the Ash Creek meteorite,” Geoff says. “In many ways our television series had its birthplace at the Tucson gem show.”


Both Geoff and Steve will participate as vendors this year at the Tucson gem and mineral shows. Notkin’s company Aerolite Meteorites holds court at the Hotel Tucson City Center (formerly the InnSuites) in room 230, where he will be displaying a wide assortment of meteorites and related collectables. And in another first, Steve will be in room 141 at the Riverpark Inn for the Pueblo Gem and Mineral Show offering the faceted extraterrestrial peridot gemstones found at one of the sites featured on the TV program. More information on the series can be found at www.meteoritemen.com and at twitter.com/meteoritemen.


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Reprinted with permission from the Tucson EZ-Guide and Xpopress