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Where To Find Meteorites

The best place to look for and find meteorites are in arid climates, deserts are a perfect environment for meteorites.

Meteorites contain iron (chondrites) and some (about 5%) are iron, hence iron meteorite. Most people when they are introduced to meteorites think of iron meteorites because they “look” more like people think they should look. Take the Sikhote Alin meteorite that fell in Russia in 1947. This iron meteorite is a perfect example of what a meteorite should look and they are highly sought after by meteorite collectors all over the world for their aesthetic value.

Metal detectors are used to find meteorites below the surface, but a magnet stick/cane (basically a gold club shaft or walking stick with a strong rare earth neodymium magnet attached) will work very well. Metal detectors don’t work very well on dry lake beds because of the high mineralization of the ground, this produces lots of noise and false signals.

Dry lakes beds in the deserts of the southwest are great places for beginner meteorite hunters to start looking. They are easy to navigate, no brush or trees, boulders or washes to worry about. Just a nice smooth surface to walk across. The other nice thing about hunting dry lake beds is the light color of the ground. This contrasts nicely with the dark color of meteorites and makes finding them visually relatively easy. The hard part is patience. Meteorites are rarer than gold, and it take a trained eye to find them effectively and consistently.

Try hunting along the shoreline of the dry lake. Hunting the center is good too, and you might find one there, but you’re more likely to find meteorites along the shoreline because over time meteorites migrate down from the hills from rains and erosion through washes. Wind or floods will cause some meteorites to move to the center of the lake bed, and new fresh falls could be located there as well.

If you do use a detector, use it around the outer edges of the lake bed. The bushes and boulders will sometimes catch meteorites, and old gold prospectors may have thrown a meteorite in the bushes because they thought it was a hot rock. Many meteorites have been found by hunters laying atop old dig holes left by gold hunters not knowing what it was, perhaps mistaking the meteorite for a hot rock.

Another great place to hunt for meteorites is just about anywhere. I know that’s vague but think of it this way. Meteorites have been falling and striking the Earth for millions of years. Over time there have been literally billions of meteorites that have impacted the surface. Some big, some small. Keeping this in mind, realize that 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. This means that 70% of all meteorites that have ever impacted our planet have gone right into our beautiful blue oceans. ;) Kinda sucks, but I guess that’s just the way it goes.

Now I know that if some of my meteorite friends read this post they’ll be razzing me that I said you can find meteorites anywhere. This is true, however, meteorites deteriorate over time. How long it takes is arguable… Meteor Crater in Arizona for example had an impact some 50,000 years ago from an iron meteorite weighing around 300,000 tons and measured some 150 feet across. The impact created a crater almost a mile wide, 570 feet deep and pushed up the earth around the crater more than 150 feet from the surrounding plains. It also scattered fragments of meteorite covering and area 8-10 miles in diameter across the desert floor.

The pieces from this meteorite are still very much intact and well preserved and will still probably be here for hundreds of thousands of years more. Unless it floods.

Hunting Meteorites On A Dry Lake Bed
Hunting Meteorites On A Dry Lake Bed

See, meteorites are very susceptible to their environment, if an iron meteorite falls in the ocean you can imagine it would rust away completely in a relatively short amount of time. If a chondrite (stone meteorite) falls in the ocean, the iron in it breaks down and corrodes the meteorite very quickly. It will crumble into nothing in a very short period of time. This is why more meteorites are found in dry arid regions across our planet than any other areas. Water, humidity, and wind erosion contribute greatly to a meteorite’s demise.

Meteorites have been found everywhere on this planet, Antarctica, Africa, North and South America, Russia, China, Europe and Australia. In fact Australia is a great place to hunt for meteorites.

Meteorites are in fact everywhere. Swamps wouldn’t be a good place to look, but anywhere that is relatively dry, with old ground is a great place to hunt. Especially if people have never hunted meteorites there before. Gold producing areas (that are legal to hunt on) are good places to look because people have already been out there with detectors hunting gold. When you find a hot rock, what do you do with it, toss it in a bush right? Check the bushes! They are great places to find meteorites.

Hunting meteorites is one thing, finding them is quite another story. I’ll leave that for my next article.

This post is based, in part, on content licensed from E. Wichman from the defunct website that was purchased by SkyFall Meteorites. 

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Ash Creek Expedition: 6.7g Meteorite Find!

West Texas: 6.7g Meteorite
In-Situ Ash Creek meteorite from West, Texas: 6.7g. Scale cube on ground.

Hunting meteorites is rarely an easy task. Here is a diary of Eric Wichman’s trials and tribulations over the course of Feb. 21 to 24, 2009 hunting the Ash Creek meteorite fall in the area around the city of Ash Creek, TX.

In a small town North of Waco, Texas, scientists from the University of North Texas and some lucky meteorite meteorite hunters found meteorites from the Feb. 15 fireball in the sky. There was a giant explosion that sent one local farmer scrambling for cover under his barn after he witnessed the explosion and the break up of the meteor. Seconds later it started raining stones down on his fields and he had to run to his barn to escape the extraterrestrial bombardment. He reported that he could hear the stones pelting the ground and roof of his barn where he was taking shelter (as reported by Michael Farmer to the Met-List, note: I’m trying to find this reference with no luck).

Here is Eric’s story, in his own words:

Feb 21: Day 0 and sick with a cold after planning the trip and raising funds for expedition. Trip postponed for 24 hrs.

Feb 22:Day 1, 10:00 am and started out for Texas. Driving non-stop from San Diego, CA. Google maps said 19hrs 48mins. They lied! lol ;-)

Feb 23: Day 2, after driving 1200 miles straight without rest, we stopped at 5:30 am local time in a rest area just outside Abilene, TX and napped for about 3 hours. We woke up about 9:00 am and continued on toward West, TX . We arrived in West at about 1:30 pm local time. We did some quick preliminary searching in a predefined search area and then check in to our cabin at the local KOA campground. We could have stayed in a hotel in Waco but liked the idea of being closer to the strewnfield.

Around 3 pm we arrived at the spot where the first meteorite was located. We, of course, searched the area again hoping something might have been missed … lol – Fat chance. Professional hunters had been through here and had no less than 7 days to search this area thoroughly.

We met up with Ruben Garcia and Mike Miller and after showing us their new finds and and speaking with a local landowner they were off. We hunted a local field with permission from the landowner until dark with no finds and called it a day.

Feb 24th: Day 3 and up early 5am … Hunting …

Feb 25th: Day 4 and my first meteorite found! After much researching, searching, collaborating, driving, and some luck, ten days after a meteorite fell to Earth in West, Texas, I found my first piece of Ash Creek! It’s a nice little fragment of this beautiful chondrite. Gorgeously fresh fusion crust and a spectacular whitish gray matrix

Here are a few additional photos:

6.7g West Texas Meteorite
6.7g Ash Creek Meteorite
6.7g West Texas Meteorite
6.7g Ash Creek Meteorite
6.7g West Texas Meteorite
6.7g Ash Creek Meteorite
6.7g Ash Creek Meteorite
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Meteorite Hunting Laws & Guidelines

Meteorite hunting can be a very satisfying endeavor that may take you to the farthest reaches of the Earth. Though a collector of meteorites may never become a hunter of meteorites, both the hunter and collector should be aware of the laws governing the collection and collecting of meteorites. We are not lawyers and can, at best, only offer our perspectives and personal guidelines on these complex issues. However, we can state with confidence that the large majority of meteorites available to collectors are legal to own and were found and acquired in accordance to the laws of their country of origin.

In the United States, meteorites belong to the person, business or government agency upon whose land they fall or are found. Meteorites found on federal lands, such as land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), may belong to the federal government. There are many online resources available, including the BLM (check out their FAQs on Meteorites on Public Lands), to learn more about hunting on federal lands. We shall leave it to the reader to research this topic further, because coming as no surprise, dealing with any government agency is difficult. Fortunately, if you find a meteorite on your land, buy a meteorite from someone who found it on their land, search for and retrieve meteorites with permission of the landowner, or receive it from a person or institution that has a legal right to it, then the meteorite is legally yours.

Laws in countries outside the United States governing the hunting, export and ownership of meteorites are often based on antiquated laws with seemingly arbitrary enforcement and can seem overly harsh. However, laws are laws and these laws should be respected. Some well known meteorite hunters have been prosecuted and jailed under terrible conditions due their blatant or inadvertent disregard of the laws of the country where they were found hunting.

If you have questions, then ask your source or dealer for clarifying information. Dealers with nothing to hide will gladly give you the required information.

This post is based, in part, on content licensed from E. Wichman from the defunct website that was purchased by SkyFall Meteorites. 

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Don’t Throw Away that Hot Rock!

Attention metal detectorists and treasure/relic hunters! STOP!!!

Don’t throw away any hot rocks until you check and verify they are not meteorites. Meteorites are another kind of treasure you may encounter during your search.

Those of you who hunt gold nuggets and relics in the deserts of the southwest, Alaska, or anywhere for that matter have run across pesky hot rocks. These are highly mineralized rocks that make your metal detector sound off and make you think you found something good, even if only for a moment. Nugget-shooters, metal detectorists, and relic hunters have all kicked, thrown, or tossed hot rocks in the bushes at one time or another. It’s something that for most hunters is an everyday annoyance.

Meteorite hunters on the other hand, check the bushes, rock cairns and old dig holes (by the way; shame on anyone who doesn’t fill their dig holes!) for hot rocks that might be a meteorite; meteorites you may have inadvertently thrown aside and left for someone else to find.

Stone Meteorites may not look like anything special. But they will make your detector sound off and many a hunter has been fooled into thinking it was nothing more than a hot rock. Gold detectors are particularly useful in finding meteorites. Their extreme sensitivity that makes them good for gold nugget hunting, also makes them very sensitive to the iron content in meteorites. You simply don’t use discrimination. Stone meteorites contain a high percentage of nickel iron, higher than nearly any other Earth rock (one notable exception is Awaruite also known as Josephenite). These stony meteorites will set off the detector and will sound similar to a “Leavertite” hot rock. Iron meteorites are a bit more obvious and can easily be identified as an uncommon rock in the field.

It’s important to be able to identify a meteorite while in the field. There are a number of field ID methods and certain characteristics of meteorites you should be on the lookout for.

  • Magnetic: Because most meteorites have iron in them, this makes them magnetically susceptible. Keep in mind there are MANY earth rocks that will attract a magnet as well. Just because a rock is magnetically susceptible, does NOT mean it’s a meteorite. In fact, it is more likely to be Hematite or Magnetite. However, using a magnet is just the first step to identifying a rock as a potential meteorite. So, keep a rare earth magnet handy to test your hot rocks. Some meteorites will only slightly attract the magnet.
  • Heavy and/or Dense: Meteorites tend to be heavier than most Earth rocks both due to density and iron content.
  • Fusion Crust: Meteorites enter our atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour on a fiery course towards Earth’s surface. This causes the meteorite to have a burned look. It’s actually a glassy like thin melt crust on the outside of the stone, and will look like a charcoal briquette on freshly fallen meteorites. Older meteorites which have been weathering for hundreds or thousands of years could have residual fusion crust and a reddish or oxidized desert varnish exterior.
  • Regmaglypts: Meteorites, both iron and stone, can have regmaglypts, or “thumbprints”. These are depressions, scoops, and ridges on the exterior of the stone caused by ablation as the meteoroid enters our atmosphere. Material melts away from the meteorite and “burns off” leaving these thumbprinted like surface.
  • Streak Test: The streak test is used to rule out magnetite or hematite which will leave a streak on the non-glazed side of a bathroom tile. Most hunters I know don’t rely on this method, but have used it to identify some meteorwrongs. The logic is that meteorites don’t leave streaks, but this is sometimes unreliable because meteorites contain iron, and will oxidize. This oxidation will leave a “rusty” streak on the tile.
  • Windowing: Meteorite hunters will typically carry a piece of very course grit sand paper or a small pocket file in the event they find a meteorite. This aids in identifying possible meteorites when you sand or file a small “window” on an inconspicuous surface of the stone, exposing the interior. You’re looking for two things. Chondrules, and iron. 90% of stone meteorites are classified as chondrites. Chondrites are named for their chondrules (little spherules a few milimeters in diameter, with the matrix of the stone). Iron should also be visible as metal bits or flecks inside the stone too. Also, you needn’t worry about damaging the stone. Just find an inconspicuous place to file down to view the interior. It’s common practice to identify a stone as a meteorite. One word of caution, if the meteorite is heavily regmaglypted, do not file or break off a piece. Keep it whole and show it to someone with experience in handling meteorites.
  • Visual Examination & ID: Carry with you a 10X jeweler’s loupe. For most treasure hunters this is a common tool in their tool bag. Use the loupe to look for chondrules and the iron flecks within the stone. Use it to examine the exterior of the stone looking for signs of fusion crust. Also look for olivine crystals. Many meteorites may have visible greenish colored olivine crystals within the matrix of the stone.

If you have found a rock that meets all of the above criteria. you MIGHT have a meteorite! It’s still a good idea to have your rock identified by an experienced collector, hunter, or scientist familiar with meteorites. Do NOT take it to a geologist. Most geologists are not trained in meteorites. Let’s put that statement in perspective. Would you take your car to a brake specialist to fix the transmission? Just because someone works with and studies rocks, does not mean they know anything about meteorites.

Meteorites are rare, some more rare in fact than gold or diamonds. But they are found in every state of the USA, and on every continent on our planet. As of this writing some 50,000 plus meteorites have been found, classified and cataloged throughout the world.

If you have a question or think your “hot rock” might be a meteorite. Feel free to email us in focus and sunlit pictures for evaluation.

This post is based, in part, on content licensed from E. Wichman from the defunct website that was purchased by SkyFall Meteorites.