Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

11.4 Collecting Meteorites and Tektites


11.4: Collecting Meteorites and Tektites

Given their extraterrestrial origins and rarity, meteorites have a lot of appeal. Once bitten by the meteorite bug, it‘s easy to get hooked into seeking a specimen of your own. However, this is no easy task, both because of the rarity of meteorites (for those seeking to collect one in the field) and their price (for those seeking to purchase one). If you‘re fortunate to live near a "strewn field" where a meteorite is known to have exploded into hundreds or thousands of fragments (as near Odessa, Texas), your chances of collecting one on your own are greatly increased. O.R. Norton‘s book Rocks from Space includes lists of strewn fields, and the Meteoritical Bulletin Database is an online resource listing all known and classified meteorite falls. But getting to a strewn field is the easy part. You then have to be able to pick out a rock that may look like every other rock on the ground. Because meteorites usually have a high nickel-iron content, collectors use metal detectors or magnets attached to strings or a walking stick. One famed meteorite hunter, H. H. Nininger, used to drive through the desert towing a magnetic rake! One web site gives advice to novice meteorite seekers: www.novaspace.com/METEOR/Find.html.

Still, even experienced meteorite hunters consider it a lucky day when they make a find. Thus, your most effective way of digging up a meteorite for your collection is with the 'silver pick', or reaching for your wallet to buy one from a dealer. The most reasonably priced pieces for a child・s budget are Nantan meteorites from China and small, black, pear-shaped tektites from Southeast Asia. I・ve seen these at almost every show I・ve attended. (Caution, though! I・ve heard that artificial tektites are now being produced in China from black glass and entered into the gem and mineral market as the real deal.) Encourage kids to check with dealers at rock and gem shows, rock shops, and museum gift stores, or to write or email for catalogs from such companies as:

The Universe Collection (Bethany Sciences, P.O. Box 3726-T, New Haven, CT 06525-0726, phone 203-393-3395). Write or call for their annual catalog, but be warned: this is a high-end enterprise, with prices to match. Most specimens are priced by the gram, and meteorites tend to be very, very heavy!

Meteorite Central . Log onto this web site and get a password to join "The Meteorite Mailing List" and join over 1,300 members with an interest in collecting meteorites who exchange information to learn about, discuss, and purchase meteorites.

The Meteorite Exchange Network. This site has info about meteorites and the community of meteorite enthusiasts and dealers. In fact, it links to dozens of dealers, web sites, and eBay auctions and eBay stores.

Aerolite Meteorites, LLC. Geoffrey Notkin, host of the TV series Meteorite Men, started this company and website, which has meteorites, meteorite photos, expedition reports, science articles, and more.

Club Space Rock. An online 'meteorite community'.

Note: Kids can use this activity toward satisfying requirements for the Collecting badge simultaneously (Activity 5.1). Those who seek meteorites in the field can apply this toward earning the Field Trips badge (Activity 8.3). Kids who join "Club Space Rock" can use that toward earning the Rocking on the Computer badge (Activity 15.6).