Man describes finding a piece of the Wisconsin meteorite

By Phil Plait | April 19, 2010 8:06 am

A man who, along with his sons, found a piece of the meteorite from last week’s huge fireball describes it for the local news.

Very cool, and his piece is really nice! Since it’s from a known fall, it’ll be worth something, too. I imagine there could be more than 100 kilos of rocks around, but they’ll be extremely difficult to find. I hope they can recover a lot of this one.

Tip o’ the Whipple Shield to John Draeger.


Comments (23)

  1. Messier Tidy Upper

    Cool! Lucky guys. :-)

    Also very well prepared, dedicated & researched in advance with those magnets and reading blogs (which ones I wonder? 😉 ) And what a superluminous (beyond mere brilliant!) means of “payment” for the farmer. 😉

    What a great story. Good on ’em! 8)

  2. Jordy

    Man, the Department of Meteors oughtta pay real good for this one!

    Doggone itch. Gotta take a bath!

  3. I want one to fall here! Come on FSM! You can wave your noodly appendage and make it happen!

  4. Al

    That was a great story. However, Phil you previously said that gloves should be worn to prevent contamination, but this gentleman who seems to be an expert was handling the meteorite with his bare fingers. What exactly do they analyse meteorites for?

  5. Davidlpf

    So did you find any meteorites while you were in the desert?

  6. “you previously said that gloves should be worn to prevent contamination,”

    I’ve seen Creepshow and The Blob too. Who said movies weren’t educational?

  7. Plutonium being from Pluto

    The mention of “flecks of metal” there – irridium? Do we know yet?


    BTW. Heard about this discovery which was mentioned as a news item – “Dark Sun is one of our nearest neighbours” – in the latest New Scientist magazine (P. 8 N.S. mag 17th April 2010) which is the new closest, coolest and dimmest record holder?

    I’ve sent you a facebook message about this new brown dwarf too.

    It rejoices in the “name” UGPS 0722-05 and is 9.6 ly from our solar system.

    See also (quoted from the NS item) :

    Off topic sorry BA I know.

    Finally, thanks BA for your blog and your forbearance – I know I am a bit messed up & can get carried away at times. You know how much I love your blog despite the occasional rare issue we disagree on right? 😉

    – StevoR aka Plutonium being from Pluto

    PS. Having trouble posting here now. Sorry if this comes through twice – hope it gets sorted out. [Worried.]

  8. Darren Garrison
  9. David

    I’d also like to know what they learn from meteorites. Why are they so coveted? What would they learn from this meteorite that they haven’t learned from the countless ones that have come before?

  10. Wow…to hold something in your hands that’s around 4.5 billion years old must be pretty special. The left over “building rubble” from the formation of the solar system itself !

    Could it even be full of organic molecules, like the Murchison Meteorite?

  11. Darren Garrison

    #8: “The mention of “flecks of metal” there – irridium? Do we know yet?”

    A mix of nickle and iron. Iridium is plentiful in meteorites only in comparison to the Earth’s crust. It is still only a few parts per million in meteorites.

    #11 “Could it even be full of organic molecules, like the Murchison Meteorite?”

    It is an “ordinary chondrite” (possibly an H.) The organic-rich ones are the Carbonaceous chondrites.

    If you want to learn more about meteorites, you should conciser joining the meteorite mailing list, where all of your questions can be answered (and you can follow new falls moment by moment.) It is read by meteoriticists, dealers, collectors, and general enthusiasts around the world.

  12. Magnum

    A few weeks ago in that Known Universe show that Phil was in there was a guy who hosed down his roof and collected some tiny meteorites barely visible to the nude eye that had settled from the atmosphere.

    Wouldn’t you be able to learn a lot with a large organised effort to catch meteorite fragments like this? There’s all sorts of things I could think of (and won’t bore you with .. unless someone says “No there’s NOTHING that could be learnt” and I’ll ask why not with specific examples).

    Do any research programmes like this exist? I’ve never heard of any. If they don’t, why not?

  13. Darren Garrison

    Anything you “hose down from your roof” will be mostly human produced or natural terrestrial particles. It is really only a “gee whiz” thing to look at a pile of dust under a microscope and think “a small percentage of these are from space.” The particles used in science are collected in Antarctica and in the upper atmosphere via airplanes with special traps. The terms to google are “brownlee particles” and micrometeoroid/micrometeorite.

  14. MadScientist

    @al: A little handling with your fingers will do no harm – after all for all you know the thing was extracted from a cowpat. In short, it’s already contaminated by the earth. Anyone who wants to do an analysis goes through procedures to reduce the likelihood of measuring contaminants (and in some cases that is arguably impossible – for example, an ordinary chondrite found in ancient pack ice). As for what is analyzed for, there are probably a few meteorite pages out there that will give you a good idea of what people look for in different classes of meteorite. In the case of carbonaceous chondrites like the Murchison, the answer is “whatever the instruments can pick up”.

  15. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 12. Darren Garrison Says:

    #8: “The mention of “flecks of metal” there – irridium? Do we know yet?”
    A mix of nickle and iron. Iridium is plentiful in meteorites only in comparison to the Earth’s crust. It is still only a few parts per million in meteorites.

    Thanks. :-)

    @ 13. Magnum & 14. Darren Garrison :

    Reminds me of a this quote I read & found interesting :

    “The silt in a house’s eaves probably contains a minute amount of interplanetary material.”
    – Page 70, ‘The Universe and Beyond’, Terence Dickinson, Camden House, 1992.

    As for contaminants, I’m with (#15) MadScientist – it’s already landed on Earth and thus stuff will have drifted on it or brushed against it, or it could be moved by wind or animals or who knows what else, etc ..

  16. George Harris

    I wonder how long before the Meteorite Men (Show on Science? channel) go to Wisconsin to look for pieces of it.

  17. Darren Garrison

    Arnold is already there– haven’t heard about Notkin.

  18. Jess Tauber

    The obsession with $$$ is very apparent- every other sentence out of the mouths of the Meteorite Men (I watched the whole series, and the original ‘pilot’, as well as their talk at NEAF this past Sunday) deals with how much x, y, or z is worth based on mass. The commercialization is a real turn-off. It is what killed my interest in coin collecting many years ago, once the investor-types started taking over. All part of a particular mindset that just sucks the fun out of hobbies. I wonder how much slices of Phil would bring (on the other hand he only slightly resembles a Ferengi…).

  19. Loonman

    What a great opportunity to hunt meteorites and morel musrooms at the same time. Meteorite Men has brought attention to a topic that most people are unaware of. Science will benefit, collectors will benefit, and a few people will make some money from collecting space rocks. Where is the downside to any of those things? A great human interest story.

  20. Dear Jess Tauber:

    You are mistaken regarding the “obsession with $$$” on my show “Meteorite Men.” While Steve is a businessman, I typically don’t sell meteorites that I’ve found myself. They end up in my permanent collection and you won’t see me talking much (or at all?) about meteorite prices on the show. I collect space rocks for the passion of it.

    I do own a meteorite business as well, but we focus on buying, selling, and trading meteorites found by others. We have to fund the expeditions somehow! I am also reasonably sure that I didn’t once mention monetary values at the NEAF lecture, although Steve may have. I am much more interested in the adventure and the experience rather than the financial return. In fact, we have many times lost money on expeditions, since recovered material did not cover our airfares, vehicle rentals, etc.

    I personally would prefer it if the values of meteorites that we find were not displayed onscreen during the show but that is a network decision, not mine. Many viewers have told us that they find adding a dollar value makes the show more interesting. One view being: if you don’t place a dollar value on a find, to some people it’s just a little black rock. The fact that our network likes to display monetary values alongside our finds doesn’t mean everyone is “obsessed.” You are jumping to conclusions.

    Anyway, thanks for watching all seven episodes and attending our lecture at NEAF. I guess the money bit wasn’t that much of a turn-off if you sat through the whole season : )


    Geoff of Meteorite Men

  21. Don Skidmore

    @ Geoff -You are everywhere dude!
    I hunted Wisconsin. (12 hour drive from my house) It was my first hunt after getting interested in meteorites about two years ago. I walked and hunted for three days and found nothing. A friend found a nice one. I was the second person to handle it! Really cool. He will not sell it. If he found a second one he was gonna give a slice to me and then make the rest available to a museum if they wanted to purchase it. Most of us hunt them or buy them for the fascination we have with what they are: Rocks from Space!
    If we sell them it’s so we can buy different ones or get out of financial trouble from buying them in the first place. :) Some people have the fortune of having a business around them, which feeds their passion. If they were worth nothing most of us would still be after them.
    Rock on Wisconsin! I should have stayed on til I found one…but i was worn out and had to get back to work.


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