View Full Version : What to do if you find a meteorite?

2003-Sep-20, 09:19 PM
Not that *I* did, nor do I ever expect too (although it would be DAMN cool!)...

But what are supposed to do with a stone that falls from the sky in front of your house, or anyway that you find and think could be a meteorite?
Does it belong to the state/science institutions (<Indie Voice>"It belongs to a museum!"</Indie Voice>), or can you keep and/or sell it to the highest bidder?

I've seen some "Stones from Space" for sale in a local toy store today, what are they really? (They were called something-ites, I don't remember the name right now but I think I've seen it on this board before...) Would that be legal?


2003-Sep-20, 09:22 PM
Well if it is anything similar to archaeology: DONT MOVE IT!!!!!

Sometimes more information is gained from the surrounding dirt than the actual artifact itself.

With meteorites i don't know, but i a m guessing they would like to record everything about the surrounding material.

2003-Sep-21, 01:08 AM
If it fell on your property, it is yours. If you found it on someone else's private property, it's theirs. Anywhere else... it's still yours, at least in the US. In other countries probably too - I do not know of any country which makes a blanket claim on meteorites found in it.

Nowhere Man
2003-Sep-21, 01:28 AM
What Ilya said. If a mereorite lands anywhere other than private property, it's finders keepers. What you do with it after that is up to you.

One fellow I heard of, found some meteorites very soon after a wintertime fall. He popped them into plastic bags and stuck them in the freezer, and later donated them to some meteor researchers. His quick action meant that the rocks were about as pristine and uncontaminated as possible. Very valuable for examining the chemistry, etc.

Two friends of mine, who live in Chicagoland, went out hunting after the shower that happened there last year. They did not find any in the public parks, but they did spot one, a bit smaller than a golf ball, in someone's yard. They cut a deal, and now they not only own the meteorite, but the square yard of the roof where it landed, complete with the dimple and splintered wood made by the rock when it first landed.

IOW, I know people who own a portable meteor crater! Is that cool or what? 8)


2003-Sep-21, 01:34 AM
Claim that it cures something, or maybe everything, and sell chips of it on eBay.

2003-Sep-21, 02:48 AM
What chuck said. Sell it on Ebay.

2003-Sep-21, 03:13 AM
I'd like to learn how to determine wether or not a rock is a meteroite or not.

Any good "acid" tests for this?

2003-Sep-21, 04:17 AM
Uh... actually there are supposedly some things you can do with density. Gimmie a minute, I have a book on this... (Unless of course somebody else knows this already and beats me to the punch.)

2003-Sep-21, 04:43 AM
Allright... here goes.

There are several things that can help you tell if a rock you find is a meteorite.

Appearance. Iron meteorites have irregular, angled shapes. Meteorites have a thin dark crust, known as a "fusion crust". This comes from the heating the meteorite experienced as it entered the atmosphere. If the meteorite fell recently, it will be dark in color or black. If old it may be rusty. Soil may also stain old meteorites brown. They come in many shapes and sizes but are seldom symmetrically round.

Texture. Meteorites are solid, not porous. The edges are smooth, dull, and gently curved rather than sharp. The surface may have markings resembling oval thumb prints. It may also be pitted or have tiny bubbles on the surface due to its heating as it entered the atmosphere.

Composition. Many meteorites contain a large precentage of Iron. Tie a string to a magnet and suspend it next to the rock. If it is attracted, Iron is present. Try grinding the rock with a file. Using a hand lens, look for specks of metal.

Density. Assuming this is an Iron meteorite, it will be denser than most rocks of an equal size. Try checking the specific gravity of the suspected meteorite against that of another rock from the area. Specific Gravity is the ratio of mass of the object versus the mass of an equal volume of water. (Mass of rock / Mass of water) How do you find the volume of water? You take a beaker to the brim with water. Put a small cup under the beaker's lip and submerge the rock. Catch the water that pours out with the cup. Weigh the rock, and weigh the water. (Subtract the weight of the little cup from whatever value you get from the cup of water. I should have mentioned weighing the cup earlier- how silly of me!) Divide the weight of the rock by the weight of the water. The result is the specific gravity of our rock. Most Earth Rocks have a specific gravity of 3.3 or less. Most metorites have a specific gravity that is higher than this.

Now the key to each of these attributes is the word "most". There's stuff that doesn't meet some of these criteria that is meteoric in nature and conversely there are non-meteors that do. If you really want to be sure you could try bringing your rock to someone knowlegeable. If you're in college a professor is a great idea, not only because he/she will probably be able to find out, but also because this is an excellent way to be a brown-noser. :)

I owe most of the info here to a book called "Space and Astronomy Science Fair Projects", by Robert L. Bonnet and G. Daniel Keen. (I made up the brown-noser part.) Make of it what you will.

2003-Sep-21, 09:03 AM
As Dr Irving from the U WA says, "give it to me". :D

Kidding aside, it isn't easy to tell a meteorite. I look for them every where I go. We've even been on a hunt or two where they've been seen to fall and haven't been found yet.

You need to go see as many as you can. Museums, rock shows, university and observatory displays are some places. Then you need to read a few meteorite hunters books with lots of color pictures. Go to the net for more pics and pointers on identifying them.

If you find a rock you think might be a meteorite, there are several places to get it identified for only the cost of getting it there and back. Planetary scientists or geologists sometimes know more about meteorites than astronomers, believe it or not. Ask around the astronomy department at your local U and you can probably find someone willing to give you an opinion.

As far as moving it, grab it quick. There is not too much data in how it hits the ground. More data comes from the stone itself. If it truly was a new fall, put it in a sealed bag and handle it as little as possible so as not to contaminate it. The more pristine it is the more valuable to science. Let studies be done, then get it back to keep, donate or sell.

Here are some good picture and ID sites.





2003-Sep-22, 12:51 AM
I have a few questions on selling a meteorite. How much does a meteorite usually sell for? Does it very in the size and composition? Finally, can you get a tax break when donating it?

2003-Sep-22, 01:10 AM
You can get a tax break donating anything so long as you have some proof of what it's worth. I don't know who would appraise one though.

2003-Sep-22, 07:31 AM
Meteorites can be sold but you do need to check the laws of the country you are in as they are not all the same. There is a broad price range depending on the type of meteorite you have. They usually sell by the gram so weight does matter. Also, whole vs pieces, fusion crust, and weathering affect price.

Just Google 'meteorites for sale' and you will see pages and pages. Some sites will help you or sell them for you.

Only a few people have gotten rich dealing meteorites if that's what you were hoping.

pi is exactly 3
2003-Sep-22, 11:58 AM
Hmmm. According to madcat's decription I could find hundreds of thousands of meteorites along old railway tracks. I've never seen a meteorite but I thought comparing it to railway iron might be a good comparison because most people have seen railway iron before. I have a feeling railway iron would be more rough than a meteorite. Anyone want to try comparing the two.

P.S dont go looking for meteorites near the railway tracks. :D :D

2003-Sep-22, 02:46 PM
Thanks for the info. All helpful.

Here in S. Texas, there normally is little grass but a lot of small rocks which, logically, are easy to find. I've wondered if the more rusty colored ones might be meteorites.

The Bad Astronomer
2003-Sep-22, 10:46 PM
I have bought some meteorites on Ebay. The prices in general are not bad. I urge you to go to various meteorite vendors on the web first and check the prices per gram on similar specimens before bidding though. They are easy to find using google.

2003-Sep-23, 12:58 AM
Has anyone ever heard of harvesting micro-meterites from rain?

It goes something like this. Catch rain water in a dish one week or more prior to a major meteor shower (this is the control) Repeat again one week(or more) after. Weather permitting of course. You should be able to use a magnet to harvest more iron dust from the rainwater a week after the shower.

Does anyone know if this is a load of bunk?

The Bad Astronomer
2003-Sep-23, 03:56 AM
I was thinking about this just today, coincidentally. One problem is distinguishing them from slag; vaporized iron in the air. Supposedly, the terrestrial iron is not in little spherules, but I really need to track this one down. Perhaps testing the spherules for nickel content might finally nail this down.

2003-Sep-23, 04:27 AM
According to madcat's decription I could find hundreds of thousands of meteorites along old railway tracks

I don't think railroad tracks would have a fusion crust. And steel beams are not what I had in mind when I said angular! :)

2003-Sep-23, 09:23 PM
I was thinking about this just today, coincidentally. One problem is distinguishing them from slag; vaporized iron in the air. Supposedly, the terrestrial iron is not in little spherules, but I really need to track this one down. Perhaps testing the spherules for nickel content might finally nail this down.

In a book called Experiments in Space Science by Peter Greenleaf
There is one such experiment. According to the book, the seperation of cosmic dust from earthly dust involves using a microscope to classify it into groups based on shape and size. In the second (post shower) there should be a different group(s) of particles present.

The book also says that stony particles of cosmic origin could be found the same way.

There seems to be alot about this of the web too. One description saying the iron particles will be sphereical and pitted.

2003-Sep-24, 03:43 AM
Jokergirl, I suggest you go to eBay website and search for "meteorite". There are several hundred on sale; the highest currently priced is going for over $3000 and weighs 93 kg. Most of course are small enough to fit in your hand, and go for $10-30 - if at all.

2003-Sep-25, 08:10 AM
If you buy meteorites from EBay, be sure you know your source. You might get cheated. For example lots of people sell tektites under the name of meteorites and they aren't. Tektites are Earth debris blasted up from a meteorite impact that then fall back to Earth. Tektites are more similar to lava bombs than meteorites.

As far as finding meteorites lying around, it isn't easy to do. There are some out there and many do fall every year, but there's also an awful lot of regular rocks and it's the old needle in the haystack problem.

I have a cane that I taped a very strong magnet to for hunting. After a couple of years of intermittent searching, I have some very unusual and very magnetic rocks but no meteorites except the few I have bought. But, it's been fun hunting. I have a few adventure stories to show for it as well.

2003-Sep-25, 08:26 AM
I have an idea I got from an earlier post in this thread.
If one knew someone that flew a small plane, in winter, over open ground, with a certain amount of snowcover...

Could the impact sites be spotted easily from the air, as black streaks or such? The pilot could then take a reading from their GPS and send a search party.

2003-Sep-25, 08:26 AM
I was thinking about this just today, coincidentally. One problem is distinguishing them from slag; vaporized iron in the air. Supposedly, the terrestrial iron is not in little spherules, but I really need to track this one down. Perhaps testing the spherules for nickel content might finally nail this down.
This site looks pretty good for identifying meteorite dust.

2003-Sep-25, 08:36 AM
I have an idea I got from an earlier post in this thread.
If one knew someone that flew a small plane, in winter, over open ground, with a certain amount of snowcover...

Could the impact sites be spotted easily from the air, as black streaks or such? The pilot could then take a reading from their GPS and send a search party.Been done.

Meteorites are found in the Arctic, Antarctic, Greenland and places with large glaciers. One reason is they are visible on the surface, but another reason is they are collected by the glacier, carried along, and concentrated in certain places where the ice evaporates at the edge of ridges.

Impact craters have been found, some recently through satellite photos. Because of erosion, many craters are hard to recognize.

But as far as finding craters by flying over snow, I don't think you'd be very successful. Large meteorites that make craters are few and far between, thank goodness. Most meteorites do not leave such markers long enough to be a useful means of finding them. Unless the crater is a hole in your roof or car or something anyway. :wink:

2003-Sep-25, 08:53 AM
I may follow up on this idea.

I live in Edmonton, Alberta.
I read that one or more universities were seeking more meteorites by offering farmers to call them when they were found.
I think our local airport is the main one for transporting workers to and from 'The North' at all times of the year.
If I supplied a GPS unit to flights over barren areas in winter; I could offer a percentage to the 'spotter' and another to the summer field crew that does the recovery trek.
The oil and mining companies may finance (if I offer the tax thing), and they could spin the 'helping science as we destroy the earth' thing as well. :wink:

2003-Sep-25, 10:57 AM
I just heard on the radio(here in Sweden) that two people dug up a meteorite weighing 158 kilograms!
Since 1800 only 9 meteorites have been discovered in Sweden.

2003-Sep-25, 11:56 AM
I know nothing, but it sounds like a big one.
Have you noticed any dinosaurs dying since it fell?
Just kidding, if you could post a link (when available), I am sure others, as well as I would be interested in the details from a local source.

2003-Sep-25, 01:16 PM

8 september 2003 Sveriges största meteorit hittad i Lappland!

Sveriges genom tiderna största meteorit har hittats för bara någon vecka sedan, strax utanför Pajala, Lappland.

Järnmeteoriten väger cirka 150 kg och låg på 1,5 meters djup vid Kitkiöjärvi utanför Pajala. Det tog två dygn att gräva upp fyndet, som sedan fraktades i bil ned till Stockholm.
Källa: Dan Holtstam, Sektionen för mineralogi, NRM.

På GEOLOGINS DAG den 13 september ska meteoriten premiärvisas på Naturhistoriska riksmuseet!

Bilden visar järn/nickelmeteoriten in situ!


Rekordmeteorit funnen i Norrbotten

2003-09-25 03:11

Sveriges hittills största meteoritfynd har gjorts av två privatpersoner i närheten av byn Kitkiöjärvi i Pajala kommun.
Meteoriten som anses ha stort vetenskapligt värde väger 158 kilo och tog två dagar att gräva upp ur marken.
-Man kan faktiskt betrakta den som en nationalklenod, säger Dan Holstam, intendent vid Naturhistoriska museet i Stockholm där meteoriten nu finns. Sedan 1800-talets början har bara nio meteoritfynd gjorts i Sverige. Anledningen är att de flesta meteorer är så små att de brinner upp och förgasas, så kallade stjärnskott, vid inträdet i atmosfären.
94 procent av meteorerna utgörs av fragment av sten. Bara några få procent av utgörs av nickelhaltigt järn som fyndet i Kitkiöjärvi.
Området vid Kitkiöjärvi anses vara platsen för en större meteoritsvärm som slog ned på jorden för 800 000 år sedan, så det här handlar om ett väl lagrat stycke rymdmetall, berättar Norrbottens-Kuriren.

Did you get that? :D

In short ;

Two guys found it buried 1.5 meters down and it took them 2 days to dig it out.
It weighed 158 Kilograms and consisted mostly of (Ni)Nickel and (Fe)Iron.

2003-Sep-25, 01:24 PM
My Swedish is rusty, thanks for the translation.
How did they know where to dig, was it a recent and 'logged' event?

2003-Sep-25, 01:51 PM
It doesn't say how they found it, but I'm betting on a metal detector.
And it is thought to have landed in the earth 800 000 years ago, apparently there was a major meteor shower back then...

2003-Sep-25, 02:00 PM
1.5m, 800,000y, metal detector?
I smell a hoax!
It was their grandpa's Model T Ford, he buried it in 1911, and left a secret map so his descendants would have 15m of fame. :wink:

2003-Sep-25, 02:08 PM
Hahaha well I don't know...
It's going on display in our "Naturhistoriska riksmuseum".

I'll let you know if I hear any development on the matter.

2003-Sep-25, 02:12 PM
Nickel and iron, no chrome. Sounds like a Ford to me. :wink:

2003-Sep-27, 04:58 AM
1.5m, 800,000y, metal detector?.........350 pounds of metal might set off a metal detector from 4 feet down. I don't know what range a good detector would have but that's a lot of metal.

2003-Sep-27, 08:27 AM
Actually, I think they are quite sensitive.
I used to work in a meat packing plant that had metal detectors scanning the conveyors before the grinders, and before packaging. Just in case someone dropped a knife or a wrench, etc.
We had one on the leanest meat line that kept going into alarm for 'no reason', called 'nuisance trips'. We changed the detector, checked every once of the belt, called the manufacturer etc, but still had the same problem.
I was tasked to stare at the thing until I could figure out what was happening. I noticed that the 'input voltage' from the sensor circuit would increase a little when 'redder' meat would pass. I called the manufacturer and confirmed that it would pick up the iron in the hemoglobin.
I later found out that these units cost $20,000 USD because of their sensitivity.

2003-Sep-28, 05:42 AM
Wow, they go to all that trouble to keep metal out of your meat but not the E-coli. :roll:

2003-Sep-28, 06:59 AM
E-coli is another story.
Cook your food and you will avoid it.

2003-Sep-28, 07:22 AM
hmmmmm on the subject of food bacteria....

ever accidently cook a bad seafood product? I for one, have had a few Run-ins with bad oysters....yet I continue to tempt fate.

(seafood addict)

but makes for a runny, I mean rainy....day after..... :lol:

2003-Sep-29, 08:07 AM
E-coli is another story.
Cook your food and you will avoid it.You are preaching to the choir. I won't even eat hamburger unless I personally see it burnt. 8-[