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What Does a Meteorite Look Like? What You Need to Know!

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stony Iron Meteorite

Most meteorites are quite small, usually only a few centimeters across. They may be round or irregular in shape. Their surfaces are usually rough and pitted, with a dark overall color.

If you’re interested in meteorites, you might want to know more about what they look like. Meteorites can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but there are some general characteristics that they tend to share. Here’s what you need to know about the appearance of meteorites!

telescope divider 2General Appearance

Composition

In terms of composition, most meteorites are made of iron and nickel. They may also contain other elements, such as cobalt, chromium, and manganese. Meteorites typically have a high density, which is why they often survive the journey through Earth’s atmosphere.

fireball meteorite

Image Credit: Alexyz3d, Shutterstock

Size

As for size, meteorites can range from very small (a few centimeters across) to quite large (several meters across). The largest known meteorite is the Hoba Meteorite in Namibia, which weighs an estimated 66 tons! Most meteorites are much smaller than this, however.

Shape

Meteorites may be round or irregular in shape. Their surfaces are usually rough and pitted, with a dark overall color. This is because they’re often covered in a thin layer of oxidation products.

How Can You Tell if You Have a Meteorite?

If you think you may have found a meteorite, there are a few things you can do to check. First, see if it’s attracted to a magnet. If it is, that’s a good sign! Remember, meteorites are made of iron and nickel, which are magnetic materials.

Second, look at the surface of the rock. Meteorites often have what’s called a fusion crust—a thin, blackened layer that forms when the rock is heated by friction as it falls through the atmosphere.

Finally, take the rock to a professional for analysis. They’ll be able to tell you for sure whether or not you’ve found a meteorite!

falling meteorite on earth

Image Credit: Triff, Shutterstock

Are Meteorites Worth Money?

This is a question that gets asked a lot. And the answer is…it depends! Meteorites can be worth quite a bit of money, but it really depends on the type of meteorite, its rarity, and its size. For example, a very rare iron meteorite can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, while a more common stone meteorite might only be worth a few hundred dollars.

So, if you think you’ve found a meteorite, what should you do next?

The first thing you need to do is identify the type of meteorite that you have found. Meteorites are classified into three main types: iron, stony, and stony-iron. Iron meteorites are the most valuable, followed by stony-iron meteorites. Stony meteorites are the least valuable of the three.

Next, you need to determine the rarity of your meteorite. There are two main factors that affect a meteorite’s rarity: how common it is and where it was found. Meteorites that are found in remote locations or that are very rare are worth more than those that are found in more common locations.

Finally, you need to consider the size of your meteorite. Meteorites come in all different sizes, from very small pebbles to large boulders. The larger your meteorite is, the more valuable it will be.

Is It Illegal to Keep a Meteorite?

If you’ve come across a meteorite, you might be wondering if it’s legal to keep it. The truth is that there are no federal laws in the United States that prohibit someone from owning a meteorite. However, there are some states that have their own rules and regulations regarding meteorite ownership.

So while there are no national laws against owning a meteorite, it’s always best to check with your state or local laws before taking one home with you. Moreover, if you find a meteorite on federal land, you must report it to the proper authorities.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know what a meteorite looks like, you can start your search for one! Remember to keep an eye out for any rocks that look different from the rest, and be sure to have a magnifying glass or microscope handy to get a closer look. With a little bit of patience and luck, you might just find yourself holding a piece of space history in your hands!


Featured Image Credit: Adwo, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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