[meteorite-list] Meteorite Found in California?

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue Aug 3 12:53:33 2004
Message-ID: <200408031653.JAA26566_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Meteor, right?
By Josh Grossberg
Daily Breeze (Torrance, California)
July 22, 2004

It traveled for millions of years across the vast emptiness of space,
entered the Earth's atmosphere at speeds 50 times faster than a bullet
and could be worth up to $20,000.

Either that or it's just a rock.

All the Patel brothers know is that they heard an odd noise in the
middle of the night and the next morning, there was a strange mineral
formation in the parking lot of their Redondo Beach inn, named,
appropriately enough, the Starlite Motel.

Now, after doing some research on the Internet, they're fairly certain
the golf-ball-sized, pock-marked object with copper specks is a visitor
from outer space.

"I was sweeping and I saw it," Dinesh Patel said. "At first I thought it
was a rock, and was going to put it in the trash. But it was too heavy."

The brothers were sound asleep early Tuesday at their hotel on Pacific
Coast Highway when they were both startled awake by a loud noise. Narish
Patel described it as a "zzzzz" sound, while Dinesh Patel said it
resembled a "car squeaking against a wall." Apparently nobody else heard
it, or at least, they didn't contact the Redondo Beach police, which
received no calls, Sgt. Phil Keenan said.

It could take months of testing to determine exactly what the brothers
found. But after looking at a photograph of their prize, two meteorite
experts said it is certainly possible that they found what they think
they found.

"I can't rule it out," said meteorite dealer Michael Blood.

Blood said that if it's real, the find would be especially rare because
the brothers heard and found the meteorite where it landed, something
that has happened only a few thousand times in history.

Worth thousands -- maybe

And if it came from the moon or Mars, the Patels would really have hit
the celestial jackpot.

"If it's lunar or martian, it could be worth a couple thousand dollars a
gram," Blood said of the rock that weighs about 20 grams. "But the
greatest likelihood is it's common chondrite."

In which case, the entire stone would be worth maybe a couple hundred bucks.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Internet site eBay had 18 purported
meteorites for sale, ranging in price from $6.99 to $1,000.

Who would spend so much on so little? Very few people, it turns out.

"It's a very intense industry that's very small," Blood said. "My
estimate is there are 3,000 to 6,000 collectors in the world. Maybe much

Blood said that Meteorite Magazine, the bible of the field, has a
circulation of about 1,000.

The allure of meteorites -- which are meteors that reach the Earth
intact -- is their otherworldliness.

"There's nothing else you can put in your hand and look at that's from
out of the world," Blood said. "They come from countless millions of
miles away. I've spent hundreds of hours looking for them and found only
one. These things are hard to come by."

Alan Rubin, a research geochemist at the Institute of Geophysics and
Planetary Physics at UCLA, was less optimistic than Blood.

"It doesn't look very promising," said Rubin, who earned a Ph.D.
studying meteors. "If it's a meteorite, it's very unusual."

Tests will offer the answer

Still, he said, tests would need to be conducted to be sure.

"The texture is unlike any meteorite I've seen, but there's always a
chance," he said. "I can't rule it out."

If the find turns out to be something common, it wouldn't be the first
time someone saw space stuff on the ground.

"I had a woman drive hundreds of miles and show up in my driveway with a
truck full of rocks," Blood said. "They hear that a lunar meteorite
sells for $1,000 a gram and then they find a rock and think they're rich."
Received on Tue 03 Aug 2004 12:53:00 PM PDT

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