How can I tell if the rock I found is a meteorite? (Beginner)

I have a rock that I think might be a meteorite. How can I tell if it is one? What should I do with it if I'm convinced it's a meteorite and want it to be tested?

My first suggestion would be to look at some web pages describing what to look for when identifying meteorites. Two good places are The Institute of Meteoritics or UCLA Cosmochemistry. These sites describe some of the types of meteorites, some common characteristics of meteorites, and common misconceptions about meteorites. Another good place to look is the Photo Gallery of Meteorwrongs at Washington University. This page has pictures of rocks with specific comments about why researchers do not believe that they are meteorites.

If you you still think you have a meteorite after looking at these pages, my advice would be to call a local university and talk to someone in their geology or astronomy departments. Not all geologists and astronomers have the experience or equipment to analyze meteorites, but you might be lucky and find someone near you who can look at it!

The other option is to send pieces of the meteorite to the addresses given on one of the above websites. These people have agreed to accept samples in the mail and will probably be able to tell you what your rock is.

About the Author

Lynn Carter

Lynn uses radar astronomy to study the planets, especially Venus. She got her PhD in Astronomy from Cornell in Summer 2004 and is now working at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. on the Mars Express radar.

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