Have you found a meteorite?

If you saw the rock fall from the sky, or there was a recent meteorite fall event in your area, then the unusual rock you’ve found might be a meteorite. Check here for more information on recent falls in the USA and Canada: https://ares.jsc.nasa.gov/meteorite-falls/events/.

If this isn’t the case, then there’s a good chance that the rock you’re wondering about isn’t actually a meteorite. The reality is that meteorites are incredibly rare and nearly all rocks found on Earth are not meteorites. Most meteorites are found in deserts — hot deserts like those in northern Africa, or cold deserts like Antarctica, because there are geologic processes there that concentrate meteorites, prevent them from falling apart, and make them easier to identify. Even a rock that is unique for the area where it is found is unlikely to be a meteorite. It might have been moved there by people or by geologic processes long ago. There are many websites that describe the properties of meteorites, and the many types of Earth rocks that are mistaken for meteorites (called ‘meteorwrongs’). Links to some of these websites are given below. We highly recommend that you check them out – there is a very good chance that one of the meteorwrongs described in those links will have properties similar to the rock you found.

If, after checking out those websites and the examples of meteorites and meteorwrongs, you still think you might have found a meteorite, please answer these questions (Yes/No) about your rock.

  1. Does it have a thin shiny smooth coating over some portion of its surface? This is called a fusion crust, it typically is only about 1 mm thick, and darker than the rest of the rock. If a rock does not have any fusion crust, it is unlikely to be a meteorite.
  2. Is the inside a lighter color than the outside? The fusion crust often gives meteorites a dark coating on the outside. Sometimes pieces of this will break off along fractures or parts of the rock can be uncovered if it broke apart in flight, but it is rare for it to be fully removed.
  3. Is the rock massive inside, without bubbles or holes or empty spaces? Bubbles that once held gas are not found in meteorites, and large rounded holes in rocks are formed when rocks are eroded by water.
  4. Is it mainly black or dark in color and not iridescent? Most meteorites are dark, and shiny or multi-colored layers are typically not found on their surfaces.
  5. Is it heavier for its size than a typical rock? Most stony meteorites are 20-40% denser than an average rock from Earth’s crust.
  6. Is it massive, with little shape (i.e, does it not resemble a crystal shape)? Meteorites have few to no coarse-grained crystals found inside them.
  7. If you cut or grind into the rock, does the inside of the rock have silver or red spots? The most common types of meteorites have small spots of metal that can be seen on a smooth or polished surface.
  8. Does the rock attract a magnet? Most meteorites are moderately magnetic.
  9. Did you find it in a dry area (not on the beach, in the mud, etc)? Most meteorites break down rapidly in wet environments, so rocks that survive in these areas are almost never meteorites.
  10. Was there a recent fireball observed in the area where this rock was found? If so, please provide us with the local news report – many rocks have been observed to fall from the sky without being meteorites!

If you personally saw it fall to the ground, or nearly all your answers are ‘Yes”, please email us the answers to the questions above along with images of the rock. We require at least two high-resolution images, well-lit and well-focused, each with a ruler or a familiar object for scale: one showing the outside of the rock, and one of a broken or cut surface of the interior. The image of the rock outside must show details as small as 2 millimeters in good focus. The images of the rock interior must show details as small as ½ millimeter, again in focus.

If you haven’t cut or ground into the rock to expose a fresh surface, we request that you do this before we further consider the rock. You might be able to do this by taking a sample to a local rock shop or by purchasing a file and sandpaper from a nearby hardware store. It is often difficult to tell anything about most rocks unless a fresh and flat surface has been exposed, and almost impossible to tell the mineralogy or texture of the rock in a photo without that fresh surface. If you think you can identify the minerals in the rock by your eye without a polished surface, that probably means it's not a meteorite. We will specifically be looking for the presence of little bits of metal on the polished surface, so check for anything that is extremely shiny and try to capture that in your photo.

Along with this information, please explain in detail how and where the rock was found, preferably with GPS coordinates and photo documentation of the find site. Please email this information and images to [email protected].

We will examine these images and your answers once they are sent. If we find that the rock meets nearly all the requirements above and could possibly be a meteorite, at this point we may accept it for further evaluation and will provide you with details about submission. If we do not judge it to be a likely meteorite at this point, we will not accept or examine it. If samples are sent to us without our agreement, we will not pay to return them to you.

If you choose to do further analyses on a stone that we initially determine is unlikely a meteorite, you must do so at your own expense. If you do additional analyses and wish to send us data tables or images, we will look at them and give you an expert opinion, but we also stress that it is highly unlikely that additional analyses will prove the rock to be non-terrestrial.

Other websites with useful information about possible meteorite finds:

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