New California Gold Rush: Searching for Meteorite Bits

Ancient space rock can fetch $1K a gram
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2012 7:18 AM CDT
New California Gold Rush: Searching for Meteorite Bits
Robert Ward displays one of two pieces of a meteorite he found at a park in Lotus, Calif., Wednesday, April 25, 2012.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The fireball that exploded over California last week did more than just produce a window-shaking sonic boom—it also scattered pieces of meteorite over, fittingly enough, a 30-square-mile portion of the state's Gold Country region. News of the extremely rare type of space rock sent scientists and treasure hunters alike to California, where the window for locating the rocks is brief—their chemistry could be changing, and they would be wiped away by heavy rain, the Los Angeles Times notes. "This is scientific gold," says one astronomer. "We want to learn about this asteroid." It's also something like gold to those who recover a piece, which can fetch $1,000 a gram.

The Times has stories of the lucky few who have found bits of the meteorite, including a professional meteorite hunter who drove in from Arizona and found a pebble-size piece of carbonaceous chondrite in a parking lot; a local mom who found a 17-gram chunk while walking her dog; and a firefighter who stopped to look on his way to work, found a 2-gram fragment, and received $2,000 from a dealer on the spot. This type of meteorite is particularly sought after by scientists, as it is "older than the sun," says the professional meteorite hunter, and can contain insights into the origin of life. This meteorite could become the world's best-known and most-studied, experts believe, taking top honors from one that fell on Australia in 1969. (Read more meteor stories.)

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