Meteorite approaches the earth

I found a meteorite, now what? What to do?

Marcella Grecco's Avatar
Know what a meteorite is and what to do (and not do) if you find one

Every now and then news comes out of people who have found a meteorite. But know that this is not such a common occurrence. In Brazil, we have about 80 officially confirmed and cataloged cases. Which is very little, considering the size of the national territory and the period in which they have been sought. But if you believe you have found a meteorite, check this post how to confirm and what to do with it.

What is a meteorite? 

Bendego meteorite
The Bendegó meteorite is the oldest and one of the largest ever found in Brazil. Dating back to 1784, it weighs 5.360 kilograms (Photo: Wikipedia)

First of all, it is important to define what a meteorite is and where they come from. Meteorites are fragments of space rocks, such as asteroids and comets, that fall from outer space and hit the Earth's surface. They are divided into three main classes, varying according to composition.

A meteorite can be of the type metallic ou siderite, these have basically iron and nickel in their composition, presenting few silicates. They can also be of the type rocky ou aerolite, when they have little metal in their composition and many silicates. The other category is meteorite siderolite. In this case, they have similar amounts of silicates and metals. 

Where are meteorites?

And where to find meteorite? Although it is difficult to find meteorite, it does happen. In 2017, for example, a meteorite weighing about 1 kg fell near a house in Palmas de Monte Alto, Bahia. Now, if you are looking for one, the best place to find meteorite is in the “scatter fields“. When celestial bodies explode, they scatter several meteorite fragments through the air. However, these fragments do not fall very far from each other, being only a few kilometers apart. So, if a meteorite was found in a certain place, the chance of having another one nearby is quite high. 

How do I know if I really found a meteorite?

Meteorite on the ground
If you've found a "suspicious rock" you can follow some to check if it's a meteorite (Photo: Pixabay)

you found one different rock and is in doubt whether or not it could be a meteorite. What to do? Before submitting for analysis, you need to do a preliminary study. But know that it is very difficult to reach a definitive conclusion, even for professionals. 

At first glance, meteorites look a lot like normal rocks, especially rocky ones. However, there are some callsigns that it could be something extraterrestrial. For example: the weight, the internal aspect and the characteristic crust of the newly fallen. So if you've found any "suspicious rock", check out below a checklist to see if it might be a meteorite.

fusion crust

Every meteorite has a melting crust. When they are freshly fallen, this crust that covers the meteorite looks a lot like coal. After some time on the Earth's surface, the crust changes. This is because the meteorite is exposed to rain, wind and sun. So the crust that was once black and dark turns brown and shiny. 

And what is this crust? When the meteorite passes through the Earth's atmosphere it is thousands of kilometers per hour. As it falls, it compresses and breaks up atmospheric gases, generating a plasma shell around you. This plasma is what gives it a luminous appearance during the fall. The temperature around you can reach 10 thousand degrees Celsius. When it falls to the ground it is all "burned". That's why the crust resembles coal. In addition, it is very thin, with about 1 mm. 

irregular shape

Meteorite with remaglypts
Meteorite with remaglypts and irregular shape (Photo: Pixabay)

It is also this “burning” process that generates the characteristic irregular shape of meteorites. But they don't have spikes, as the plasma shell eliminates the prominences. Its surface is regular and smooth. They usually also have very small depressions similar to thumbprints in clay. These brands are scientifically known as remaglyptus

Densidade 

It is very difficult to find meteorites, as they look like normal rocks. But if you compare the weight of a meteorite with that of a regular stone of the same size, you will see that it is quite pesado corn. a meteorite is denso and your inside has no porosities. It is heavier than a stone of the same size because it contains iron and nickel. Metallic meteorites or siderites are even heavier because they are essentially made of metals, with few silicates. 

Magnetism

This is a very important test to take. tie one ima on a string and place it next to what you believe to be a meteorite. If there is no attraction between them, the chance of being a meteorite is practically nil. After all, about 99% of meteorites have iron in their composition. Even if some have a smaller amount, when placed a magnet nearby it has to be attraction. Even minimal. If the meteorite is metallic or siderite, this attraction will be even stronger.

internal aspect

This test is a little more complicated. If the meteorite broke when it fell, it's easier to check. Otherwise, you'll need to open a window on the surface to see what it looks like inside. 

Chondrules of a meteorite
Chondrules from a chondrite meteorite (Photo: StringFixer)

Os rocky meteorites can be divided into two groups: chondrites and achondrites. The vast majority of meteorites found are rocky chondrites. Therefore, if you believe you have found a meteorite, its interior must have several chondrules. That is, small spheres. Already find a meteorite siderite it's something very rare and their interior is different. Due to the metallic composition, the color is stainless steel and the appearance is homogeneous, without marks. 

What to do with the meteorite?

Did you do the tests and still believe it's a meteorite? So it's time to take some cares. Not because a meteorite is dangerous. But rather because it has immense value for the science and must be preserved for study. Meteorites are not radioactive, do not burn the hand and do not transmit disease. They are just pieces of stone that came from space. With a lot of information on there, for those who know how to look. 

So what you should do is take some photos without flash and mark the exact location where it was found. you get the coordinates placing a pine on Google Maps. This information is very important for scientists. In sequence, wrap the meteorite in a cloth and avoid touching it with your hands. The idea is to interfere as little as possible with its original structure. Store the meteorite in the dark and in the driest place that you have in your house. Well away from moisture, for example in the wardrobe. 

Under no circumstances wash the meteorite! Then contact the BRAMON, Brazilian Meteor Monitoring Network. They are an open, collaborative, non-profit organization that regularly reviews photos and provides guidance on how to proceed if so.

See also other features

The astonishing history of the telescope – from the war on the space eye!

Sources: Digital Look, UOL, CanalTech, Geologist

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20 comments
  1. Dnes som bol na prechádzke a rozhodol som sa hladať nijake meteority. Spočiatku som si myslel že nenájdem nič lebo som na Slovensku ale potom som niečo objavil. Doma som čítal a čítal všetko čo sa len dalo.Mal som asi 4 kúsky Dáke 2 som zahodil lebo som zistil že to je obyčajný kameň. Jeden som mal pred sebou. Kukal som na neho jak puk. Hladal som všeliake stránky a dozvedel som sa že niečo to je.No nebol som si istý a tak som sa ho rozhodol “spáliť ho niečím ako propán bután”. No keď som to spravil……..

  2. I found this stone 20 years ago. It is different from all of them. If only I could send a photo

    1. I found a black stone, I was cleaning the front of the house I live in, I don't know what it is but it looks a lot like a stone and it's black

      1. Hi, I'm from Pernambuco, I found a stone of the same shape and very heavy, Burnt crust has a melting time, it looks like the same material as the Bendegó meteorite

      2. Hello! When looking for stones in the middle of nature... I found several fragments that all indicate they were meteorites, I did some specific tests and patterns, they have a different density than a normal stone in this case its weight, some are very immatized, and I cut some on the machine to see their interior, and I could notice differences between them, some with a gray color turned to brown and with some metallic pigments, and some with a somewhat porous interior. Its external feature as if it has holes or finger marks. I really wanted to send it for testing. How can I actually do this, because I really wanted to help advance science.

  3. I found a black stone, I was cleaning the front of the house I live in, I don't know what it is but it looks a lot like a stone and it's black

  4. I found a very heavy stone beyond normal I have a metal detector and it beeps for it, I did the test with a magnet it doesn't stick strong but it has a slight attraction

  5. I'm Elizabeth I live in Caraguatatuba I found a black stone all crumpled full of sparkles inside it looks like a piece of stainless steel and a very heavy stone I would like to analyze

  6. In Brazil there are few meteorites placed and because the people specialized in them do not give the slightest importance to the people who find one and do not even want to pay attention to carry out an analysis. For this reason, the low number of copies in a country as large as this one is overlooked.

  7. I found a stone that is attracted to a magnet and I was researching that it is a meteor and has an unusual weight

  8. Good night!
    Some time ago, I found on my land a stone weighing approximately thirty kilos which, SUPPOSEDLY, is a METEORITE, at least there are strong indications that it is. I am trying to connect with suitable institutes and/or professionals in Geology and Astronomy for analysis procedures. This stone is well protected for security reasons, I also do not rule out the possibility of selling it. Therefore, I await contacts.
    Edilson Leão.

  9. IN TIME:
    ABOUT MY COMMENT ABOVE, ABOUT THE STONE WHICH, SUPPOSED TO BE A METEORITE, BELONGS TO ME, I INFORM MY PHONE CONTACT SO THAT MAYBE SOME PROFESSIONAL IN THE AREAS OF GEOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY WANTS TO TALK TO ME ABOUT TESTING IT OR EVEN PURCHASING IT.
    EDILSON LEÃO – PHONE: (77) 99130-0485 – E-mail: edilsonleao987@gmail.com or edilsonnascimentoleao@yahoo.com

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