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Meteorite Field Guide  

Mercury, Nov/Dec 2001 Table of Contents

Meteorite

A slice of an iron meteorite found near Gibeon, Namibia. Note the beautiful cross-hatched Widmanstatten pattern.
Coutesy of Jim Phillips.

Collecting meteorites will help you better understand the birth of our solar system, and you’ll get some beautiful rock specimens to boot.

Text and photographs by Jim Phillips

Astronomy enthusiasts often look up to the sky for beauty and inspiration. But there’s another rewarding aspect of astronomy that’s a bit closer to home: meteorite collecting. When you hold a meteorite in your hand, you are touching a chunk of an asteroid, moon, planet, or comet. Imagine the thrill of owning a rock that spent billions of years in outer space, and that dates back to the very birth of our solar system. Holding a meteorite gives me an indescribable sensation of being in touch with a greater reality, reinforcing my deep connection with the cosmos.

Meteorites come in a bewildering variety of sizes, shapes, textures, and colors. But all of them share a common story. They originate from larger parent bodies that were shattered or disrupted by violent impacts. The shards from these violent impacts orbited the Sun for thousands, millions, or even billions of years before that fateful moment when their orbital trajectories intercepted that of Earth.

Collecting meteorites doesn’t have to be expensive. While you might spend up to $1,000 to put together a collection with examples of each of the major categories, you don’t have to start out that way. In fact, beginning your collection with a single meteorite is the best first step. Then you can decide how or if to proceed. Meteorites are usually sold by the gram. A nickel-sized meteorite weighs about 5 grams, while a walnut-sized sample weighs 60 to 80 grams. If you want a fist-sized meteorite, look for a 600- to 800-gram sample depending on the type.

 
 

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