For 30 years, a man used a meteorite as a doorstop, not knowing that it was a rather valuable one worth $100,000. It was only when a meteor passed through Michigan that he wondered if his meteorite was worth anything.
How does one identify a meteorite from a meteor-wrong?
A Special Doorstop
In 1988, an unnamed man bought a farm in Edmore, Michigan and was being toured around the property when he spotted a large, strange-looking rock holding the door of a shed open. When he asked about it, the farmer simply said that it was a meteorite that he and his father saw come down on their property in 1930s and that it “made a heck of a noise when it hit.” It was still warm when they dug it out in the morning and it had been in the farm since. As the new owner of the property, the man was told that the rock was a part of the property and that he could have it.
The man lived at the farm for years, but took the rock with him when he moved away. For 30 years he kept the rock, using it as a doorstop as well or letting his children bring it to school for show-and-tell. It was only in January of this year when he began to wonder about the value of the rock after a meteor blazed through the sky in Michigan and he read of accounts of people selling small pieces of meteorite that they had found.
Geology faculty member at Central Michigan University Monaliza Sirbescu is evidently often asked by people if the rock they had in possession was a meteorite and often, she would politely tell them that it was not, that it was a “meteor-wrong” instead of a meteorite. However, this time, when the man pulled the meteorite out of the bag, Sirbescu states that she knew within seconds that this was a real one.
She cut off a slice of the meteorite and sent it to the Smithsonian who confirmed that the 22.5-pound rock is indeed a meteorite that is made up of 88.5 percent iron and 11.5 percent nickel. It is said to be potentially valued at $100,000, but that might still increase should further analysis reveal the meteorite to have rare elements within.
So far, some museums and institutions are interested in purchasing the meteorite, but whatever amount the man gets for what is now called the “Edmore meteorite,” he promises to donate 10 percent of it to CMU for the students in the earth and atmospheric sciences department.
Meteorite vs Meteor-Wrong
“Meteor-wrong” is the somewhat humorous word used to describe rocks that were wrongfully believed to be meteorites but turns out to be simple rocks. Typically, meteorites tend to look rather different from Earth rocks because they lack quartz and do not typically contain holes or vesticles.
They might also be observed to be significantly darker than normal rocks, have regmaglypts that look like thumbprints, and have fusion crusts and flow lines from when they burned up upon entry to the atmosphere. They also feel much heavier in hand than an ordinary Earth rock should, and will feel atypically dense.
A magnet test may also help to identify the meteorites from the meteor-wrongs, in which the meteorites typically adhere to magnets whereas the meteor-wrongs typically won’t. But the best test for a suspected meteorite is still a laboratory test to confirm its components, particularly its nickel component because while nickel is rather rare on Earth, it is almost always present in meteorites.