The solar system is full of meteors. These meteors fly around the solar system and sometimes collide with other celestial bodies, including Earth. Some meteors burn up in the atmosphere and never reach the Earth's surface; however, some do. Once a meteor falls to the Earth's surface, it is classified as a meteorite. If you are interested in having one of these space treasures, you can go out and find them. You just have to know where to look, how to find a meteorite, and how to distinguish it from other rocks.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing a location
Step 1. Check a database
Scientists and meteor enthusiasts keep up-to-date records of where they find meteorites. You can search online databases (for example, the Meteoritical Society database) that show the areas that produce the most meteorite discoveries. Identifying the closest meteor "hot spot" is an excellent start to finding yours.
Step 2. Choose a hot, arid climate
Humidity and humid climates will deteriorate a meteorite relatively quickly. Your best chance of finding an intact meteorite is to look somewhere that stays warm and dry. Deserts are one of the best climates you can search for. Dry lake beds are excellent too.
For example, more meteorites have been found in the Sahara than anywhere else on Earth
Step 3. Get permission to search the area
Before heading out on Earth in search of meteorites, take a moment to think about who owns the land you are looking for. If the land is privately owned, you will need permission from the owner before searching there. Public lands follow different rules depending on the particular jurisdiction; however, you will always need permission to search on public land.
- If it is privately owned land, you will have to ask the owner for permission to be there.
- If it is publicly owned land (for example, a park), you will need a permit from the governing body to search there and a permit to conserve the meteorite if you find it. Some areas classify them as artifacts, which means that they belong to the municipality and not to the discoverer.
Part 2 of 3: Hunt a Meteor
Step 1. Buy or make a stick to search for meteorites
While the name might suggest something exotic, a meteorite stick is a simple stick that has a magnet on the end. You can attach the end to the rocks on the ground to analyze the magnetic properties. If a rock has magnetic properties, there is a possibility that it is a meteorite and that will warrant further investigation.
Using a long stick will prevent it from constantly bending to see if individual rocks are magnetic
Step 2. Get a good metal detector
You should get a metal detector that is made to search for gold. These are the most accurate metal detectors. Head to the location where you intend to search and spread the coil of the metal detector across the ground to search for meteorites below the surface.
- Good used metal detectors usually cost between $ 250 and $ 400. There is no need to buy a new one for a higher price.
- The metal detector is more sensitive than a stick to search for meteorites; however, it is less convenient to use. You must have both with you.
Step 3. Take a GPS
A GPS will serve you in two ways. First, it will help you keep track of your position in case you get lost. Second, it will allow you to mark the location of the meteorites you find.
If you find a meteor, it will be important to mark the location. This will allow you to upload it to the meteorite databases and help you to map the location of such meteorites
Step 4. Prepare to Dig
Sometimes you can find meteorites just lying on the ground. Other times, the metal detector will pick up a signal from something deep in the ground. Bring a pick and shovel with you to help you dig up any possible meteorites.
Part 3 of 3: Identify a meteorite
Step 1. Analyze the rock to see its magnetic properties
You can very quickly analyze the rock to see its magnetic properties. Simply hold a magnet close to the rock to determine if there is any interaction. You can even do this with the magnet on the tip of your stick to search for meteorites. Most meteorites have magnetic properties.
Keep in mind that some rocks on Earth also have magnetic properties
Step 2. Observe the density of the rock
Due to their high iron and nickel content, meteorites are very dense. They are often denser than most rocks on Earth. This can be more easily explained as the fact that a rock is heavier than another its size. Pick up the rock and see how heavy it feels compared to what you expect one that size to be.
Step 3. Look for common meteor traits
While not all meteorites share the same characteristics, there are some common traits that you can find in most of them. If you can identify one or more of those traits, it is very likely that you will find a meteorite. Four specific traits to look for are:
- a metallic sheen on the rock surface
- small rounded parts of stones on the surface (known as chondrules)
- a black or brown coating known as a fusion crust (produced by extreme heat flying through the atmosphere)
- small dents covering the rock surface (they have a regmagglipte texture or fingerprints)
Step 4. Do a test using the stripe method
Try dragging the rock in question across a striped plate or piece of paper. If you leave a streak, it is probably a terrestrial rock. If it doesn't leave a streak or if the streak is faint and gray in color, it could be a meteorite.
A striped plate is usually made of unglazed ceramic. You can find it online or in rock or mineral test kits
- Visit a museum and get acquainted with meteorites.
- Bring plenty of food and water.
- If there is no meteor near you, you can go to an online auction page. Most of the actual meteorites for sale have ratings.
- Have a friend with you. It's even a good idea to drive separately in case you have a problem with the car.
- You can get dehydrated quickly in arid climates. Bring adequate amounts of water.
- Do not go to private places to search for meteorites.
- Never go looking for meteorites alone.
- Don't steal meteorites.