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Author Topic:   Save the space rocks!
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-01-2006 10:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
UA Scientist and Private Collector Form Center to Save Meteorites
The new UA Southwest Meteorite Center is dedicated to preserving, curating and analyzing meteorites, as well as promoting meteorite education for all.
The world's meteorites are vanishing.

If something isn't done soon, most of Earth's rare space rocks could be gone in a lifetime.

This particularly alarms scientists who want to study meteorites -- rocks from outer space ranging in size from microscopic particles to boulders weighing tons -- because the extraterrestrial rocks can help them unlock the secrets of our solar system's history and, possibly, the origins of life.

Part of the problem is that meteorites are being collected at a record pace. Specimens that have fallen over millions of years are being harvested in places like Africa's Sahara Desert in a few decades. Commercial dealers are buying these space rocks at prices the scientific community can't match and cutting them into small pieces for sale to bidders in a flooded market.

But it doesn't have to end this way, say a meteorite collector and a university scientist. They are organizing a new center to save the irreplaceable solar system treasure for future generations.

Read the full article here.

Editor's note: collectSPACE's collecting categories do not include meteorites for good reason: our focus is on space exploration history. Meteorites, on the other hand, are the natural history of space. There are websites that focus specifically on meteorites and do a far better job than we could ever hope to offer. That said, its well known there is some overlap among our communities and this article seemed to be of enough general interest to be included. We now return you to your regularly scheduled space history program, already in progress...


Posts: 1843
From: Daytona Beach, FL
Registered: May 2000

posted 02-01-2006 11:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a quick observation from glancing over that...

"If something isn't done soon, most of Earth's rare space rocks could be gone in a lifetime. ... Part of the problem is that meteorites are being collected at a record pace."

They are discussing the need to save and preserve meteorite samples, yet at the same time (if you read on) they are handing them out to members who donate over $500 and as raffle prizes as well. Doesn't that seem a bit counterproductive?


Posts: 773
From: California
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 02-01-2006 11:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for zee_aladdin   Click Here to Email zee_aladdin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
you are observation is correct .... interesting .... almost shamefull !!!

well, I have a meteorite that I bought a long time ago and I am very happy with it ... It is heavy and interesting ... I wonder What World or Galaxy it came from !!!

- Zee


Posts: 95
From: Toledo
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 02-02-2006 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jeffbassett   Click Here to Email jeffbassett     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Back in the early 80’s as a teen, I went outside at night in August on my birthday, and did a little star gazing and contemplation. When I looked up in the sky, I was treated to an incredible light show.
Hundreds of fireballs with huge trails streaming across the sky. I was curious; I had to know more about what I had just seen.
I found out that I had witnessed a yearly event of the largest annual meteor shower, the Persieds, which peaks every year on August 12th. The result of the Earth passing through a band of remnants of a comet. The dust is enough to create a super light show each year.
I started to keep more of an eye to the sky at night and have seen plenty of more fireballs since. It also made me want to find a piece of the result of such a firey display. At the time, Discovery magazine came out with an article on Robert Haag, a collector and seller of meteorites, the material that makes it to the ground from meteor streaks seen in the sky. The Indiana Jones of meteorite collectors and the first at the time to travel the world looking for these rocks from space.
I quickly ordered my first meteorite. A building block of our solar system, unchanged in billions of years, now sitting in my hand, I was hooked.
I started to study these rocks, collectors and those that hunt them down. Read every book available to me and already having an
interest in the space program and aviation, it was another cross over hobby.
Over the years, my collection had grown and a few people I knew asked if I would come and show the collection at gatherings. That
led to local schools asking, local science centers, scout groups and the local university to come out and talk about meteorites. I have put together a program over the years that explains the basics, historical impact, recent affects in our world, collectors and how they have changed the study of meteorotics, (not to be confused with those meteorological weather guys) what you really see when you see that fireball in the sky, types of meteorites, where they can be found more easily, how to observe meteor showers and where to go to get more information on them. I also pass out samples from my collection so people get to see and feel first hand for what I am talking about. Every time I lecture I see the same glint in the eye of one or more persons that I had when I first held my first meteorite.
I have samples from quite a number of different falls, all the basic types and quite a few rare pieces including a lunar meteorite. I can’t speak for everyone, but I myself all during Apollo really wanted to have a piece of the moon in hand. Meteorite collectors have the chance to actually have meteorites that have exactly matched exactly in composition the pieces collected during Apollo. Also pieces identical in to those matched from data collected by the Mars Viking programs as well as the current rovers. Short of having a space program to collect extraterrestrial geology, meteorites give scientist a chance to get a in hand examination of what the materials of our solar system are like, unchanged for the effects our planet has on all the geology about us.
Collectors play an incredible role in the process of bring meteorite sample to the forefront, both for collecting and for science. The science of meteorotics would not exist if it had not been for collectors and finders that sold on the commercial end. Scientist in the early 1900’s from the Smithsonian said it was an impossible task to do. Harvey Ninenger was the first to do so proving that it was possible to scientifically go about looking for and finding large strewn fields of falls. It was his work that brought this field to the modern study of rocks from space. But he never could have done it without selling to private collectors to fund his hunting of them. Scientist would never have or still to this day, been able to collect so many different specimens had it not been for private individuals going out to hunt for them. Many of the large collectors have donated much of what is in science labs now. Ninengers work accounts for an incredible amount of the University of Arizona’s collection as well what the Smithsonian has now.
With the announcement in the early 90’s of finding pieces of Mars meteorites on Earth in conjunction of the NASA Mars programs, many new finders and collectors have sprung up with several new businesses advertising in science magazines. Prices of meteorites have since soared as many more people have wanted to own a “piece of space” in hand as a collectable. This has fueled the debate of whether private collectors should have meteorites or not. Some countries look at any falls as their only space program and if any meteorite is found, automatically become property of the government. Canada is a prime example where by law if you find a fall, you have to stay silent helping government, officials have to collect the complete fall before it becomes public knowledge.
In the US, it is considered a land owners right to own whatever makes it to the property owners land. Any fall finds on public grounds are supposed to be turned over to state and federal officials.
There are few professional finders, their work through donation has made up a huge percentage of what is in most scientific study collections. Sometimes scientists are at competition for the rarer falls where not much material was collected and it becomes the case of who can afford to make the purchase. That is fueling the debate the most as some major scientific find could be sitting on a collector's shelf instead of a lab.
Those scientists have to remember that there would be almost no samples available had it not been for the few private sector finders out there looking. Many of the stone type meteorites would be lost from terrestrialization (weathering) and would be lost for good had it not been for commercial collectors. So it becomes the perception of scientist that they are missing out on potential discoveries due to the commercialization, where if not for those collectors, most samples would never come to light and be lost and destroyed in the long run by weathering.
Most commercial programs have been super in donating parts of their finds. In fact, it is a partially needed process as those institutions are the ones that help validate a meteorite fall and samples.
The cost of meteorites has risen in the past two decades where it is an expensive hobby to have. Collectors do their best to preserve these expensive rocks and many like myself donate our time and money to further educate the public on these unique rocks that are around us. The rare pieces that scientist are upset about are the ones usually getting to collectors that take intense care in them or to labs that destroy a portion in study and then preserve them much in the same way any private collector does. Most lab samples never make it to the public eye.
I am happy to try to answer any questions out there about this as well type up a primer on meteorites and the different interest of them here on this board.

[This message has been edited by jeffbassett (edited February 02, 2006).]

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