Meteorites are the natural bits of outer space that enter the earth's surface. They are basically rocks that withstand the collision with the surface of our planet. When they enter the earth surface, the impact pressure causes their body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball that is also known as falling star. Meteorites can be divided into three classes - namely stony (silicate minerals), iron (metallic iron and nickel) and stony iron (a mix of both stone and iron). These rocks are a rare specimen and much sought after by geologists and researchers alike. Though similar to the earthen rocks in many aspects, they have certain distinguishing characteristics, which make it possible to differentiate them from the rocks we have on the surface of earth. Identifying meteorites is very easy. Moreover, if what you have found is really a meteorite, you can even have it named after you, your village or even your city. If you think you have laid your hand at a meteorite, go through the following steps and check whether your find is really what you think it is, or not.
How To Identify Meteorites
If you find the following characteristics in a rock, it means that it is a meteorite.
- The first step to identify a meteorite is to measure the weight of the rock. Meteorites are denser than earthbound debris. Even if they are of the same size as the earthen rocks, they will weigh as much as 3.5 times more.
- The surface of a meteorite is smoother than the other rocks. Its sharp edges and points melt away when it enters earth's surface, resulting in smoother surfaces.
- Meteors are generally irregular in shape. Still, there are some that reach the ground without rotating and adopt the shape of a cone. So, you must learn about the shape of meteorites.
- You must also look for any thumbprints depression on the surface of the rock. These are called regmaglypts and often appear all over the surface. At the same time, there will rarely be a hole in meteorites.
- Almost all meteorites have a composition of iron in them. Check to see if the meteorite attracts a magnet.
- Crush or grind the surface of the rock to see if you can see small metal specks. These are indicative of meteorites, as they contain high amounts of metal. However, if clear or milky crystal appears, it would mean that you have a rock from your own planet.
- Little balls might be clinging on to the surface of the rocks. These are called chondrules and are found on the meteorites.
- There might be a black, ash-like crust on the surface of meteorites, also known as fusion crust, which is similar to an eggshell. This ash-like crust withers with time, as it comes in contact with the earth.
- On the earth surface, meteorites will start rusting or will develop a patina that is caused by oxidation of the rock in the desert environment. This patina of irons is often yellow, red or orange colored.
- The surface of the rock can have ‘flow lines’ that will show that the melted material must have flowed off the surface upon atmospheric entry.