From: Kelly Webb <kelly_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:44:35 2004
Message-ID: <3AA09706.E40876FD_at_bhil.com>

Hi, All,

    Some weeks ago, Elton Jones posted a newspaper story originating in
the southern Illinois area about a boy in Dixon Springs, Illinois, who
claimed that a meteorite fell to the ground right in front of him, was
warm to the touch when he picked it up, etc. You know the story... Why
is it always the same story?
    The newspaper said the rock was examined at the Geology Department
of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. After emailing
the Geology Department office at SIU (and copying all 57 faculty and
staff), I located the Geology Dept. faculty member who looked at the
    Here's his description:
    A vesicular igneous-looking rock about the size of your fist. The
surface vesicles are tabular and oriented in the same direction and up
to 8 mm in size. The rock is dark outside and broken surfaces show a
dark matrix with glassy inclusions. Some of the vesicles have a
carbonized sustance in them. The rock has deposits of caliche
(carbonates) and some algae growing on it. It has a low density and no
attraction to a large conventional (iron) magnet. The boy and his father
were nervous about him picking at the rock, so no cutting, filing,
scraping, or corner grinding was done. He thought the boy's fall story
was just that, a story, but he didn't say so. He did tell tham that his
gut feeling was that it wasn't a meteorite but if they were convinced it
was they should try the Field Museum in Chicago. He showed the boy the
only meteoritic specimen that he had (a Canyon Diablo).
    So, at this point in the story, I'm thinking SLAG, when he said,
"The word 'slag' crossed my mind."
    Dr. Richard Fifarek is an economic geologist specializing in
hydrothermal depositation and stable isotope studies. This is why he
gets stuck with everybody that comes to the university with a
"meteorite" that they've found, because "My specialty is as close to
meteorites as we get here, but I don't really know anything about
    To his credit, soon Dr. Fifarek was asking me more questions about
meteorites than I was asking him about the Dixon Springs rock. We ended
by my agreeing to send him a set of criteria aimed at recognizing
meteorites (and the procedure for the nickel test), which I have done.
    He says that 1 to 3 "meteorite visitors" show up on the Geology
Department's doorstep every month, so a set of guidelines would help. He
also asked if any of the people I knew that were interested in
meteorites and were within reasonable distance of southern Illinois
would be willing to provide contact information to him in case some
stone that was a good candidate did turn up, so he could refer the
finder to us.
    Well, YEAH, I think so. Rhett, Al, anyone?
    For all the griping I've heard about "geologists," I must say this
was a pleasant and reasonable contact. I would imagine that most
universities, particularly public ones, must have a similar experience
with "meteorite visitors." Maybe we should help them out!
    Shame about the slag.

Sterling K. Webb
Received on Sat 03 Mar 2001 02:02:31 AM PST

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