Introduction to RuniverzuM

I decided to devote my introductory article to often asked questions. General awareness about meteorites and points of interest around them is hidden to most people. This is the reason why I decided to write articles on my website.

  • What is a meteorite and how can I recognize it?

First of all, let´s remind ourselves what a meteorite is. A meteorite is a large cosmic mass that managed to pass through the Earth´s atmosphere without melting or disintegrating. Meteorite is a term for an object that has already fallen on to the Earth´s or other planets´  surface. If a person witnesses the flight of a cosmic mass (meteoroid) through the atmosphere, sees a light phenomenon called a meteor, in the case of greater light it is called bolid.

Meteorites have many characteristics. It´s important to keep in mind what type of journey every meteorite has. During the flight through the atmosphere at speeds 11 - 72 km/s, an object passes through extremely unfavorable habitat. High friction, high temperature and turbulent air circulation. This habitat literally imprints on every meteorite and helps with identification.

The characteristic colouring of the molten crust (much darker than the inner part) can be observed. Regmaglypts are also features of this, they are the so-called "indentations", which resemble fingerprints and are caused by turbulent air flow as the object passes through the atmosphere. The passage of the meteoroid through the atmosphere also results in the meteorite not having sharp edges. The magnetism of meteorites can also give clues to their identification. The density of meteorites is significantly higher than that of terrestrial rocks. Therefore, weight is another important indicator in assessing the authenticity of meteorites.

Space rocks are also characterised by the absence of voids or bubbles, which can be found on terrestrial rocks, where they are caused, for example, by magmatic activity.

Regmaglypts and molten crust (Chondrite, NWA X, 132, 8 g)
Regmaglypts and molten crust (Chondrite, NWA X, 132, 8 g)
The unique appearance caused by melting as it passes through the atmosphere                                   (Campo del Cielo, octahedrite, IAB-MG, 65 g)
The unique appearance caused by melting as it passes through the atmosphere (Campo del Cielo, octahedrite, IAB-MG, 65 g)

It goes without saying that not all meteoroids pass through the atmosphere without damage. It is very common for a meteoroid to explode during atmospheric passage and for only fragments to fall to the surface. In these cases, the probability of determining the authenticity of meteorites by the characteristic features of the crust is reduced. At the same time, however, it opens up a view into the fracture of the stone, where the presence of bright quartz or calcite can be verified. No meteorite contains both of these minerals. In these cases, and in all other cases, it is 100% certain to have the elements contained and their quantities determined by spectrometric analysis. The composition of meteorites is indeed unmistakably unique, the elements contained in meteorites are gallium, germanium, iridium, cobalt, titanium, or elements such as silicon, aluminium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, chlorine and others. Meteorites also contain a number of minerals that are not found on planet Earth or are very rare, such as taenite, plessite, troilite, kamacite and schreibersite.

  • How to get a piece of meteorite?

Meteorites can be obtained in two ways. The first way is to buy meteorites from reputable dealers. The seller's membership in the International Meteorite Collectors Association (I.M.C.A) is a guarantee of fair trade and authenticity for the customer. Ideally, the analysis of the meteorites sold and the documentation of the spectrometric measurement protocols is the best way. My entire collection comes from vetted suppliers. Part of my collection that can be seen on my website comes from a verified member of the I.M.C.A, Jaroslav Filip, where the protocol of spectrometric analysis of the elements contained in each meteorite is included. Also represented in my collection are meteorites from Zdeněk Schneider, also a member of the prestigious I.M.C.A. 

The second and more challenging way is to find the meteorite itself. The largest number of meteorites found in the world come from places where they are easily visible and do not disappear in the surrounding environment, such as Antarctica or the Sahara Desert. It is estimated that up to ¾ of all known meteorites come from these two sites. 

  • Has a meteorite hit the Czech Republic?

Around three dozen meteorites have been recorded in the Czech Republic. However, the number of unrecorded ones that have fallen unnoticed by the human eye is left to our imagination.

Since meteorite falls are not common in the Czech Republic, it is very difficult to find a meteorite here at the moment. However, not unrealistic. There are several known fall areas where theoretically there could be previously undiscovered parts of previously fallen meteorites. Here, fortune favours the determined.

The oldest and at the same time the heaviest meteorite known to have fallen on the territory of the Czech Republic is the Loket meteorite. The iron meteorite (IID) Loket fell in 1400, weighed 107 kg and a part of it can be seen at Loket Castle. The exact location of the impact is unknown. 

  • If I find a meteorite, can I keep it?

It depends on the legislation of each country. The Czech legislation does not explicitly regulate the discovery of a meteorite, which implies that the meteorite found belongs to the finder. However, notification of the find to the Astronomical Institute of the CAS and inclusion of the meteorite in the official meteorite database greatly increases its value, both scientific and commercial. In some countries, the finder of a meteorite is obliged to hand over the meteorite. For example, in Slovakia, according to paragraph (d1) of Section 10 of Decree No. 170/2021 Coll., a meteorite found in the territory of the Slovak Republic is protected and must be handed in.

  • Can a meteorite serve as an investment?

Meteorites are a quality investment item on the market in general. For some very rare meteorites, the value per gram exceeds the price of gold. The rarest meteorites, and therefore the best investment pieces, besides the very rare solitary pieces, are lunar and Martian meteorites, which account for only 0, 1 % of all meteorites found on Earth. Iron-stone meteorites, which are in high demand due to their attractive appearance, are also a quality investment. Whether the meteorite has a pedigree (known place of origin), whether a fall has been observed or documented also plays a role. Each meteorite is unique and no other meteorite will ever fall from the sky again, so even meteorites of more common types are a good investment.

A small, but still a quality investment piece (Murchison, CM2 2, 6 g carbon chondrite)
A small, but still a quality investment piece (Murchison, CM2 2, 6 g carbon chondrite)

The oldest silicon carbide dust grains contained in the Murchison meteorite are estimated to be 7, 5 billion years old. These grains are therefore the oldest material discovered on planet Earth. The age of the sun is approximately 4, 6 billion years

Hooray for meteorites! Mgr. Radek Šrejbr, 27. 6. 2022