Is there a fortune waiting for you on your land?
by Dr. Alan A. Keimig
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Would you be surprised to learn that there may be “rocks” on your land that could buy a new kitchen or maybe a new tractor? Many farmers and ranchers and other landowners are not so surprised now. It has come true for them.
The “rocks” that I refer to are meteorites. Are they on your place? For certain! Why haven’t you found them? Probably because most meteorites look like regular rocks, not something that has arrived from space.
How many could be on my property? Well it depends on how big a place you have, but when you consider how long meteorites have been raining down on the earth you must have some 1,000 tons of meteorites falling daily. That can be translated like this: if you are 50 years young, 18 million tons of meteorites have been added to the earth’s surface since your birth.
Because we know meteorites fall evenly everywhere, it stands to reason that you must have some around. While much meteorite material is tiny, marble-sized and larger material should be recognizable.
So how do you find these meteorites? A few facts may help. Because most meteorites are “stony” they look like old rusty rocks ” rusty because all meteorites contain some iron, and iron rusts. Grind off a rock to a little flat surface, polish it with emory paper, and if it looks like concrete with flakes of iron, it is a meteorite.
A new meteorite will still be black on the surface caused by burning as it came through the atmosphere. Some meteorites are all broken up, exploding from heat and pressure in the atmosphere or fracturing when hitting the ground. Some surfaces will be smooth, but most have dimples like thumbprints in bread dough. The iron-nickel content makes these “rocks” heavier than ordinary rocks.
If they have enough iron they will attract a magnet. (Iron-nickel content can range from a small percent to pure iron-nickel.) Look for stones that don’t belong where you find them.
Imagine turning up a big rock in a field that has no rocks. Look under fence rows where someone threw them off the field. Look in Aunt Martha’s rock garden. She was always collecting unusual rocks!
That new kitchen? That new tractor? All meteorites have value. Some have great value!
Should you want a free identification, consider taking or mailing a small piece of your find to the Curator of Meteorites at the Denver Museum of Natural History. Meteorites are the property of the landowner and no one can confiscate them. All materials will be returned.
Because each meteorite is unique and contain materials from the solar system, the Museum people wish to study and photograph each one found. They can also advise you on how to realize the funds for that new kitchen.
A good way to inform yourself about meteorites is to look them up on the Internet or to check out books on meteorites at your library.
If you want more information or have questions, please contact Dr. Jack Murphy or his staff at the Denver Museum ” recently renamed Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Dr. Murphy, while not actively searching for new meteorites, is collecting the stories of those who found known meteorites in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
Many families are unaware of the contributions made by their parents, relatives, or previous landowners in getting these meteorites to museums for study. Murphy delights in getting the current generation up-to-date on these historical facts.
If you see a meteor ” a bright fireball in the sky ” don’t take your eyes off it. Listen for up to two minutes to hear the sonic boom. Then, note where you stood, where you saw the meteor from beginning to end and how long it took the sound to reach you. Next, call the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with your report. It can help a lot in tracking a new meteorite’s fall and it will be greatly appreciated.
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