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Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies

FAQ – meteorite facts

Where can I find maps of strewn fields so that I can search for meteorites?
An Internet search can locate private vendors that offer strewn field maps. The academic literature (e.g., journals), accessed through your local college or university library, can also provide information on strewn fields in articles written about particular meteorite falls or finds. We do not guarantee the authenticity of information on third-party websites.
What are tektites? What is moldavite?
Tektites are glassy objects formed when a large impactor strikes Earth and ejects molten terrestrial material that eventually falls back to Earth. Moldavite is a type of greenish, glassy tektite from the Czech Republic.
Can I collect meteorites at Meteor Crater?
No. Refer to for information.
Have any meteorites been found in ______? 
Where can I find information on the _______ meteorite? 
What elements are found in meteorites?
The same elements that we find on Earth are found in meteorites. No new element has ever been identified in a meteorite. Meteorites do contain unique minerals that are not common on Earth because the Solar System conditions under which meteorites formed were very different from the conditions (e.g., pressure, temperature, oxidation state) that exist on Earth today. For detailed information on meteorite chemical composition, click here.
How do we know meteorites come from space?
Meteorites that come from the asteroid belt are about the same age as the solar system, approximately 4.5 billion years old. No Earth rocks are this old, because they have all been ground up and reformed repeatedly by erosion and the Earth's tectonic plate system.
How do we know that certain meteorites come from Mars and the Moon? 
Meteorites from Mars and the Moon are distinguished from Earth rocks and other meteorites by their chemical and mineral compositions and their age. In addition, lunar meteorites are distinguished by their resemblance to the lunar rocks collected by the Apollo astronauts, while the gasses trapped in shock glass within martian meteorites have been matched to measurements of the martian atmosphere taken by the NASA Viking mission in 1976.
How much are meteorites worth? Does the Center buy meteorites? Where can I sell my meteorite?
We do not buy uncertified meteorites from the general public or offer appraisals.
I really want a piece of a meteorite in the Center's collection; can I buy it from the Center?
No, we never sell meteorites from the collection.
What's the difference between a meteor, meteoroid, meteorite, asteroid, planetoid, planet, comet, etc.?
A wide variety of terms is used to describe planetary bodies in the Solar System. Definitions for some of the most common are as follows:
A large rocky, metallic and/or gaseous body in orbit around a central star.
A rocky and/or metallic body or collection of bodies in orbit around the Sun that formed early in Solar System history and has changed little since that time. Can also be identified as a planetoid or minor planet.
A natural, solid object, up to 1 m (39 3/8") in size, moving in interplanetary space, not limited to asteroids or objects derived from a larger celestial body.*
A trail of light produced by a meteoroid as it passes through an atmosphere.
A meteoroid that was naturally transported from the celestial body on which it formed to a region beyond that body's gravitational field, and that later collided with the surface of a celestial body larger than itself, such as Earth.*
An ice- and- rock-bearing body that travels in a highly elliptical orbit around the Sun. Gas and dust released from the comet as it nears the Sun gives a comet its characteristic tail.
Are there non-magnetic meteorites?
Yes, however, they are extremely rare, and are not metallic. Please refer to the achondrites section for more details.
How old are meteorites?
Meteorites range in age. The oldest particles in a meteorite, calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions from carbonaceous chondrites, have been dated at 4.56 billion years old. Meteorites that originate from asteroids are all ~4.5 billion years old. Meteorites that originate from the Moon range in age from 4.5 to 2.9 billion years old. Meteorites that originate from Mars range in age from 4.5 billion years old to 200 million years old.
Where and when do meteorites usually hit/occur?
Meteorites can and do hit the Earth anywhere and anytime. Click here for more information.
How do we know whether a meteorite is a new, distinct meteorite or part of an older find?
Detailed microscopic, chemical and mineralogical analyses are required to uniquely identify and classify a meteorite.  Such analyses can distinguish between two  meteorites that fell in a single area at different times, or can link two specimens of a single meteorite event that were found in separate locations or at separate times.
I just saw a fireball; whom should I inform?
The American Meteor Society maintains a database of fireball sightings.