So you want to buy a meteorite?
Meteorites get a bad reputation. When you hear the word, maybe you think of world-ending catastrophes that leave nothing but a crater behind. In truth, that’s a rarity. Most meteorites are perfectly harmless and fall to Earth without anyone even noticing. In fact, about 10,000 meteorites land on our planet each year, most without so much as a cracked windshield.
Because of this ubiquity, many fragments can actually be quite affordable and easy to acquire, despite coming from outer space. That said, there are some tips to keep in mind if you’re venturing into the meteorite market.
Types of Meteorites
First you have to decide what kind of meteorite you want. There's many options, from stony chondrites to iron based meteorites and even extraplanetary ones.
A chondritic meteorite is defined by its glassy beads called chondrules that retain material from the formation of the solar system. Iron meteorites are usually the surviving cores of destroyed planetoids that perished in the chaos of the early solar system.
Martian and Lunar meteorites are a real treat, formed from impacts that retain material from Mars or the Moon. There are many different categories of meteorites, so make sure you do your research.
The meteorite market
Once you have a type of meteorite in mind, you'll want to find a dealer that has the right material. An important part of that is ensuring you're buying from a legitimate source. Auction and marketplace sites sometimes carry real material, but they can just as easily be illegitimate.
Make sure everything is properly authenticated and legitimate before you buy. When you find a buyer, see if their item carries an authenticity guarantee and check the product details for more information about the meteorite itself. A good meteorite vendor will know about the history and location of the impact they are selling.
Here's an example of the authenticity guarantee you should look for:
A handy resource
This marketplace can be a little daunting, especially for a newcomer. If you're looking for a second opinion on meteorite information before buying, the Meteoritical Society is the perfect resource.
Their website maintains a database on all known meteorites. You can find all the available information on a given rock: its name, its impact, its classification, its makeup. Some meteorites are better documented than others, but the society is a great starting point before any purchase.
Taking care of your specimen
Once you have a meteorite you want and a dealer you trust, you're ready to buy! This is the most exciting step. Once it arrives, caring for a meteorite is very important. You don’t want to buy something that’s survived the vacuum of space just to break out of carelessness.
Find a spot on a shelf or table for the meteorite to live, maybe with a display case. Always be careful when showing off your prize and keep it clean… though if you do break your meteorite in two, at least you can share it with a friend. 😉
Buying a meteorite is only the first step in building up a proper collection. A meteorite is a time capsule from the early days of the solar system. If you have enough, you can chart the evolution of our system, from the fiery origins that formed the chondrules, to the planetoids that crashed against one another, to the heavenly bodies of today. Dive in and think about what kind of meteorite you want. Your collection will soon be off to an incredible start!