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How do you get started?

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#1 edwincjones

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 11:02 AM

A brand new forum--and already over my head.
How does one get started collecting space rocks?

I doubt that I could tell the difference between meteorites and the gravel in my drive way. Where do you start, how can a novice be assured that the rock is real? Several years ago Meade came out with a collection of 24 for $300 (I think) that seemed reasonable.

How does one really know that the rock came from the Moon/Mars/my driveway?

edj

#2 Glassthrower

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 11:51 AM

How does one get started collecting space rocks?


Buy one $5 space rock and the madness begins. ;)

I doubt that I could tell the difference between meteorites and the gravel in my drive way. Where do you start, how can a novice be assured that the rock is real? Several years ago Meade came out with a collection of 24 for $300 (I think) that seemed reasonable.


There are a few easy tests to narrow down the range of possibilities for a suspected meteorite.

Here is a great link to get you started on answering this question. (I couldn't say it better myself)

http://meteorite-ide...n.com/index.htm

How does one really know that the rock came from the Moon/Mars/my driveway?


The Apollo program brought back numerous moon rocks for analysis. So we can compare suspected lunar meteorites, chemically, against known moon rocks. Minerals and elements are present in moon rocks that are either not present on Earth, or are present in quantities/configurations not found on Earth.

Thanks to the Mars rover programs, we have chemically analyzed Mars rocks on the Martian surface. Just as with lunar meteorites, we can make comparisons against known Martian chemistries to rule in/out a suspected Martian meteorite. Lab analysis is in-depth and many different tests are run - including scanning electron microscope, spectroscopy, chemical reaction tests, etc. The process to determine whether or not a meteorite is really a meteorite (or lunar and martian) can take weeks, months, or even years.

I tell you what though, if I ever find nakhlite or shergottite in my driveway, you'll soon know it because I'll be back in the forums with a 6" APO riding on El-Capitan (with a Sirius dome around it) .... ;) :lol:

Clear falling skies!

MikeG

#3 csa/montana

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 01:40 PM

A brand new forum--and already over my head.
How does one get started collecting space rocks?

I doubt that I could tell the difference between meteorites and the gravel in my drive way. Where do you start, how can a novice be assured that the rock is real? Several years ago Meade came out with a collection of 24 for $300 (I think) that seemed reasonable.

How does one really know that the rock came from the Moon/Mars/my driveway?

edj


Buy from a reputable source; I would stay away from e-bay, until you gain experience on Meteorites.

Start small; there are many bargains for a few dollars that will get you excited to begin a collection.

This is a fascinating part of the Astronomy hobby, one that will very rewarding!

Above all, ask questions, ask questions! :grin:

Carol

#4 Jamie76

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 12:06 AM

The SNCs were first found to be from the Martian surface after the Viking missions. Comparing the atmostpheric gases of Mars with the gases trapped inside the meteorites came back almost a perfect match. I think this was first done with the Shergottites.

#5 molniyabeer

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 12:12 AM

Unclassified Northwest Africa (NWA) stony meteorites are often the cheapest as they are plentiful. You can find them for just pennies a gram. Campo del Cielo irons are generally pretty reasonable, well under a buck a gram. Usually, classified NWA stones (ones that have been identified by type and texture)will cost more, with identified witnessed falls next. Lunar and Martian fragments will run into the hundreds to thousands per gram. In between is a huge range of everything else.

Personally, I have a mix of a little bit of this and that. I like chondrite stony meteorites with lots of chondrules (the little round mineral grains) showing. I also like tektites, impact melt ejected from the crater and quenched as glass in unusual shapes (patties, dumbbells, tear drops, big bubbles, etc.).

eBay does have some nice stuff and you can find some deals on the more common NWA material. Gem and mineral shows sometimes have dealers, too. I've found a coule really nice samples sorting through the "bulk bins" at shows. Just remember that you usually pay per gram and the price on a sticker may be the "per gram" price, not the actual cost. I once picked up something at a show that said $10, only to find out that was per gram on a 20 gram stone!

Norton's Encyclopedia of Meteorites is a pretty good reference with lots of info on how they form and how they're classified.

Clear skies.

#6 edwincjones

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 04:46 PM

"buy one .... space rock and the madness begins"

Done-a little piece of Mars.
Can the moon be that far behind?

edj

#7 Glassthrower

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 05:17 PM

Moon and Mars are the two "planetary" meteorites available on the market. There is a lot of discussion going on now about some of the meteorites classified as "angrites" - some think they are from the planet Mercury. If so, I gotta have one! But I am waiting for the final word to come out on it. It's a gamble because angrite prices are already rising in anticipation of the results. If it turns out to be from Mercury, the prices will skyrocket above the current. If it turns out that it's not from Mercury, the price will deflate some, but will remain high because angrites are quite rare.

Ed, I don't have any lunar specimens in stock right now and I don't have any on order. So it might be a while before I get any more. But, I can point you to a couple of reputable dealers who have some at good prices. If you are interested, drop me a PM. :)

#8 Jamie76

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 08:27 PM

I remember when Bob Haag had the only known moon meteorite. He was selling a piece of it (small sliver) for about $50,000. How times have changed.

#9 edwincjones

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Posted 06 April 2008 - 12:31 PM

I remember when Bob Haag had the only known moon meteorite. He was selling a piece of it (small sliver) for about $50,000. How times have changed.


Dare I ask, but what is the going price for a little, bitty piece of the moon?

edj

#10 molniyabeer

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Posted 06 April 2008 - 01:10 PM

Realistically, you're looking at over $1K/gram. That explains why so many samples offered are miligram crumbs... My lunar piece is 210mg and was $250 at a mineral show. I got a 7mg crumb of a Martian meteorite for around $30.

At that price, having 7mg or 70mg does not make a whole lot of difference to me. Until you're up in the Zagami main mass level, they're all tiny and it's more the idea of what it is than the physical size that impresses me.

#11 Glassthrower

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Posted 06 April 2008 - 02:32 PM

Dare I ask, but what is the going price for a little, bitty piece of the moon?


Little bitty, say the size of a grain rice, about $20-$40, give or take. It also depends on the type of lunar specimen - some are more desirable to collectors and the scientific community for different reasons. For example, NWA 482 is thought to come from the ancient lunar highlands on the DARK SIDE of the Moon. How cool is that? As expected, NWA 482 sells for more than a "common" lunar meteorite. That same tiny piece that costs $20-$40 for a common lunar specimen will run over $100 for NWA 482 - on average.

The meteorite market is unique compared to other rare commodities. Pound for pound, ounce for ounce, meteorites are the rarest commodity on the planet, yet there is no centralized, authoritative governing body that determines market prices. Meteorites don't have cartels, in other words. So the price for a given piece is largely dependent on two familiar factors - supply and demand. An obscure lunar meteorite with a low total weight (for example, a 100 gram pebble is the main mass, with no known "pairings"), then the price can be exhorbitantly high because there is a tiny tiny amount available on the market - perhaps only a couple of grams worldwide. Historic falls are like this also - many of them are in museums and little of them is available on the open market. 1 or 2 gram fragments of Ensisheim can cost thousands of dollars, solely because Ensisheim is the oldest witnessed fall on record, having fell in front of witnesses in Europe in 1492. Most of the main mass sits in museums and large private collections. Collectors of historical meteorites and witnessed falls consider Ensisheim (Ensis for short in collector community) a Holy Grail to acquire. I'd trade anything in my collection for a tiny piece.

So, long answer - it depends on the meteorite and the state of the market at the time of purchase. The meteorite market fluctuates like all other commodities. FWIW, the cheap flood of UNWA stony meteorites from the Sahara is slowing down to a trickle and prices are starting to go up again after a few years of a bumper crop and very low prices.

Regards,

MikeG

#12 meteorite

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 06:39 PM

There is curiously, a U shaped relationship between the size of a specimen and cost. People are willing to pay an exorbitant amount, on a price-per-gram basis, for tiny "specks" which can not even be verified as being meteoritic. Amazing.

Be very careful on ebay. There are plenty of fakes and forgeries. Knowledge is your best defense.

There is also a meteorite list server which Mike and I belong to. We get daily email about new falls and finds, discussions/debates, etc. After a while, you can tell who is reputable and who is not. To subscribe, go to www.meteoritecentral.com

Retail prices for a nice specimen of Zagami (martian) is about $500.00/gram.

Mike, there is no "Dark Side" of the moon (unless you are a Pink Floyd fan). NWA 482 is from the Lunar "far side."

-Walter

#13 Glassthrower

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 07:03 PM

Hi Walter and group!

It's good to hear your take on things. (And for those reading this who are not familiar, Mr. Walter is much more experienced than I about all things meteoritical and his opinion on these topics should be regarded with more weight than my own.) Seriously, Walter is a veteran when it comes to space rocks. :)

I agree about the issue of provenance and specimen integrity in the field of meteorite collecting/dealing. It's something of a wild wild west, and the best defense against getting a scam deal is to do one's homework. It's not unlike any internet marketplace where trust is a valuable asset - take all measures possible to ensure that the dealer is established with a good reputation and can offer specimens which are 100% authentic - as much as possible in the internet age. As Walt will probably agree, the issue of provenance in the meteorite marketplace is a subject of much debate amongst dealers and collectors - opinions vary, but I think some increased measure of standards needs to be applied that is authoritative and definitive. But that is just my opinion on the provenance issue, others mileage may vary. ;)

Regards and clear falling skies,

MikeG

#14 Messierhunter

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 10:54 AM

I've purchased meteorite fragments and a sizeable rock from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center. I'm sure I paid a lot more than the going rate for my $20 Nantan rock, but because of the source is it safe to say that it's probably genuine? I also seem to recall the Visitor Center selling tiny shavings off of ALH84001 for about $30-50. You almost needed a magnifying glass to see them. I regret that I didn't buy it though, can't seem to find it for sale anywhere else.

#15 Glassthrower

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 12:37 PM

Hi Messierhunter!

If you bought it from Kennedy Space Center, then I think it's a safe bet that it's genuine. I cannot imagine an entity associated with NASA would sell bogus specimens - knowingly or unknowingly. So it's safe not to worry about those particular specimens. I have a couple of Indochinite tektites from one of the gift shops there.

I doubt they were selling shavings of ALH84001, perhaps they were "replica kits" or another Martian meteorite similar to ALH84001? Wow, if they were selling tiny specks of that famous meteorite for $30-$50, then I need to jump on a plane and fly down there to buy them all out before anyone else figures out what they are! ;) :)

But, it's possible I guess, since NASA owns the entire rock and could conceivably sell off very tiny pieces to make a much-need profit, especially in this climate of budget cuts.

It would be interesting to hear if anyone else recalls those, or if someone bought one.

Regards and clear falling skies!

MikeG

#16 Messierhunter

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 12:53 PM

It might have been one similar to ALH84001, but I recall a sign on the display case making a big deal about 84001. Perhaps it was just from another martian meteorite and they were hyping it because of the then-recent speculation surrounding 84001. The way it was presented definately gave the impression that the shavings were from 84001 though, which naturally came as a shock to me. One way or another I still wish I had picked one up. I'll keep my eyes open and report back if I ever find one of these things on the second-hand market. Each had its own distinctive display case so it should be easy to identify.

#17 meteorite

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 10:24 PM

I have been to the KSC visitors center many times. The visitor center is NOT part of NASA. It is a private enterprise. Delaware North, I belive, is the name of the company. Neither it nor NASA have the legal authority to sell any meteorites obtained through ANSMET. In particular, they most definitely would be selling any pieces of ALH84001.

Yes, they do sell some rusty Odessa's, Nantans' etc. Asian tektites as well. Way overpriced, like everthing else there.

The freeze-dried astronaut ice cream was pretty cool, though...

BTW, go to the Mars exhibit across from the gift shop. In it, you will see a very large (relatively speaking) slice of Zagami, a martian meteorite which was an observed fall from 1962. When I first saw it, the lithology did not look right. It looked too dark to be Zagami (I have a piece in my collection - it has a grey interior). I emailed the director my concerns. After a few weeks, I received a reply stating that several scientists had certified it was Zagami, including the head of meteorite research at JSC. The supplier was Marvin Kilgore, a reputable dealer. I was satisfied that it was Zagami. One researcher hypothesized that the coating they used to attached the specimen to the display made it appear dark.

-Walter Branch

#18 Glassthrower

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 10:58 PM

Well folks, there you have it! I trust Walter's judgement on this one, and he's correct about ANSMET - which actually "owns" the rock in question, not NASA. NASA publicized it to the world, but does not "own" it. My mistake.

I went to KSC back in 1988 during a high school field trip my senior year. Our astronomy class (a brand new course at the school that I jumped at the chance to take, even then) went there for an entire afternoon and took the grand tour, so to speak. We had a lot of fun, learned alot, and it lighted a spark in me for the space sciences that has never died. Chalk up a success for the public school system.

And that's an interesting story about the Zagami specimen, Walt. I wonder what coating they used? Hopefully it wasn't Minwax! :lol:

Regards and clear falling skies!

MikeG

#19 Messierhunter

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 01:34 PM

Well, like I said on second thought, it was probably just a shaving off of another martian meteorite that was being hyped up in the wake of ALH84001. Add in a little vague and misleading advertising and you have a middle schooler who thinks he's found a shaving of ALH84001 for sale lol. It's too bad they don't have those shaving for sale there anymore because I'd like to know what it really was from.

#20 half meter

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 01:36 PM

NWA 998 is described as the most similar and available Mars rock to ALH84001. Could that be what was for sale?

I'm getting a piece of NWA 998 shortly for its similarity to ALH84001. :)

#21 LivingNDixie

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 03:56 PM

I think I have a piece of NWA 998, I will have to go look through the collection.


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