Meteorites – Finding

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Meteorites have fallen on the surface of our planet for millions of years. So, would you recognize one if you saw it? I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. There are different types of meteorites that you might find.

“If you happen to have found a metal meteorite, an iron-nickel meteorite, it’ll be radically different from any normal rock. It’ll look like a piece of steel.”

James Edward Mungall is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Toronto. He says that an iron-nickel meteorite is relatively easy to identify.

“It’ll be very dense. It’ll be rusty if it’s been sitting around for a while. And that will be a tip-off right away cause there aren’tapart from some bizarre microscopic occurrences, there simply aren’t any naturally occurring lumps of iron on the surface of the Earth. If it’s a stony meteorite, which is much more common, you’ll be able to recognize a surface which has been melted and then cooled to glass, except where maybe some of it spalled off to reveal a rocky interior.”

What are the odds of finding a meteorite?

“Stony meteorite finds in the North American climate, are quite rare because they are so similar to other rocks and because they’ll weather very rapidly and just turn into clay and dirt, but it’s quite easy to find a meteorite in a place like the Sahara Desert.”

They might be easy to spot in the desert, but how likely is it that you’d just stumble across one in the middle of the Sahara?

“It wouldn’t be very common to find one if you just randomly walked out into the Sahara Desert either, but there are places where the conditions are right for their preservation and where they haven’t been buried by drifting sand, and in those places people can literally drive around in their Jeeps and spot them lying on the ground from hundreds of feet away and just drive over and pick them up.”

There is one place on earth where conditions are very favorable for finding meteorites. Can you guess where it is? We’ll find out in our next program. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation . I’m Jim Metzner. music

Meteorites - Finding

Would you know a meteorite if you saw one?
Air Date:01/18/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
Meteorites have fallen on the surface of our planet for millions of years. So, would you recognize one if you saw it? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. There are different types of meteorites that you might find.

"If you happen to have found a metal meteorite, an iron-nickel meteorite, it’ll be radically different from any normal rock. It’ll look like a piece of steel."

James Edward Mungall is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Toronto. He says that an iron-nickel meteorite is relatively easy to identify.

"It’ll be very dense. It’ll be rusty if it’s been sitting around for a while. And that will be a tip-off right away cause there aren’tapart from some bizarre microscopic occurrences, there simply aren’t any naturally occurring lumps of iron on the surface of the Earth. If it’s a stony meteorite, which is much more common, you’ll be able to recognize a surface which has been melted and then cooled to glass, except where maybe some of it spalled off to reveal a rocky interior."

What are the odds of finding a meteorite?

"Stony meteorite finds in the North American climate, are quite rare because they are so similar to other rocks and because they’ll weather very rapidly and just turn into clay and dirt, but it’s quite easy to find a meteorite in a place like the Sahara Desert."

They might be easy to spot in the desert, but how likely is it that you'd just stumble across one in the middle of the Sahara?

"It wouldn’t be very common to find one if you just randomly walked out into the Sahara Desert either, but there are places where the conditions are right for their preservation and where they haven’t been buried by drifting sand, and in those places people can literally drive around in their Jeeps and spot them lying on the ground from hundreds of feet away and just drive over and pick them up."

There is one place on earth where conditions are very favorable for finding meteorites. Can you guess where it is? We'll find out in our next program. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation . I'm Jim Metzner. music