[meteorite-list] Meteorite Found in California?
Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Tue Aug 3 12:53:00 EDT 2004
http://www.dailybreeze.com/content/news/3194068.html 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 less." 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."
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