There’s something magnetic about collecting natural history. Even when surrounded by amazing artifacts from sports and movies, people will connect in some primal way with material that’s natural.
Meteorites can hold a fascination that goes beyond that! I can still remember buying our first meteorite from a gallery in Laguna Beach. I was enthralled when I saw it . . . a nice chunk of metal from the Campo Del Cielo find. My wife was less than impressed, noting it looked just like a hunk of metal. I, however, couldn’t stop running my fingers over it, stunned that I was actually touching something from outer space!
When I bought that first one, I knew very little about meteorites. It turns out that the Campo Del Cielo meteorites would be the 1991 Upper Deck baseball set of meteorites. Extremely popular, but very common.. Larger examples, such as this 270 pound example from our collection, would the the 1991 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card in gem mint condition!
Now, with years of experience collecting meteorites, I’ve learned a few things. In this post, let’s cover some basics . . .
What is a meteorite? Before an object can be a meteorite, it must be a meteoroid and a meteor.
- Meteoroid: A small piece of debris in the solar system. When it enters the earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a . . .
- Meteor: Often called a shooting star, a meteor is created by the object entering the earth’s atmosphere. Friction and pressure create heat and light, forming a fireball flying through the sky.
- Meteorite: If the meteor survives contact with the earth, it is now classified as a meteorite, becoming a highly valuable object to scientists and collectors around the world.
Types of Meteorites:
- Stony: The most common meteorite (94%), these are made up of stone (hence the name!). There are subdivisions within this catagory, but for now, just know that these are the most common to fall. They are rarer within collections, however, because they often look just like other rocks. It can take high-level isotopic analysis for confirmation. (The example shown before is a Plainview meteorite, so named because it fell in Plainview, Texas).
- Iron: Approximately 5% of meteorites that fall to earth are iron-based. While rarer, they are easier to find and make up larger percentages of collections. The Campo Del Cielo example above is a great example of this one. Here’s another photo of a smaller Campo piece.
- Stony-Iron: The rarest of all meteorites, these examples make up 1% of meteorite falls. Sliced, these can be spectacular, often combining the iron matrix with gemmy material known as peridot (not the same as earth-based peridot).
There is so much more to meteorites and collecting than what I’ve talked about here. A follow-up blog will delve into more detail, because we’ve only touched the surface of the subject.
Collecting meteorites is becoming more and more popular, and you can now watch a reality showed called Meteorite Men on the Discovery Channel! It’s worth checking out.