YOU FOUND A METEORITE? - If you've come to this page because
you believe a stone you have may be a meteorite; then the
information below may help you to identify the 'potential
meteorite'. It is important to note that this information is a
guide only! A meteorite can only be termed so, when it has been
formally classified by a recognised institution. With that said,
there are still a number of things that may indicate you have a
meteorite which are listed below. If you are still not sure
after looking at this page or you think you do indeed have a
meteorite; please see details at page end.
There is a 'Glossary of Meteorite
Terms & Definitions'
here to help.
An Information Icon
following a meteorite name may be clicked to obtain further
information and/or photos for that particular specimen.
NOTICE TO AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS:
It is illegal to send meteorites overseas that have been found in Australia. Doing so breaks Federal Law under the
'Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (1986)' and
can incur heavy penalties
including fines and/or a prison sentence. Special export permits
or clearance letters must be obtained to
send any Australian meteorite overseas which on occasion can be
denied, reflecting the serious intent of the legislation.
Meteorites Australia supports the Australian Government and the
Department of the Environment and Heritage in this
matter and will only conduct proceedings in a manner which
adheres to these laws.
the stone attract a magnet?
the answer to this question is "NO" then it is
probably not a meteorite. Because of their high iron content,
the vast majority of meteorites will attract a magnet. A good
test is to dangle a magnet on a string and see if it is drawn
towards the stone. If the magnet pulls towards the stone then
you are on the right track. However there are still a lot of
Earth rocks that will also attract a magnet, so this test is by
no means conclusive. A very few meteorites will not attract a
magnet, so read on and see if any of the other features are
present. There's still a very small chance it could be a
the stone 'heavy for it's size'? Because meteorites usually have
a large iron content they are quite heavy. Even meteorites with
a relatively low iron content will still seem quite heavy
compared to Earth or terrestrial rocks of the same size. Some
meteorites are made completely of metal. These are called Iron
meteorites, usually abbreviated to "Irons" and are
very heavy for their size. They are primarily a mix of iron and
Surface Features / Colour
When meteorites travel through Earth's atmosphere, they
form what is called a "Fusion Crust". The crust is
usually black, grey to dark brown in colour. A weathered
meteorite which has been on the ground for sometime will be more
of a rusty/brown colour. Sometimes the fusion crust will have
"Flow Lines" where the surface has melted and looks to
have flowed around the meteorite. They look like fine wavy lines
in the crust and will occasionally seem to originate from the
front and stream towards the back. When meteorites hit the
ground they will often chip parts of the crust off. Iron
meteorites, when freshly fallen have a beautiful 'steely',
blue/black fusion crust. Irons that have weathered will rust and
form a rusty oxide layer. It may look like a lump of rusty metal
and possibly flake at the surface. It could also be a mixture of
these two things.
Notice the Black Crust with faint flow lines & the different pale interior.
More fusion crust examples - click an image to
Oum Dreyga (H3-5)
NWA 3147 (Eucrite)
Meteorites are rarely ever a ball or sphere type shape, but actually quite
irregular. One point to note is that they will usually
have rounded corners. Where the stones have large flat surfaces,
it could be possible that it broke on entry and more specimens
lay close by. Say within a kilometre or two! Notice the rounded
corners in the fusion crust examples above.
Meteorites DO NOT have holes in the surface. Many people believe
stones that appear 'bubbly' are meteorites. They are most likely just pumice, scoria or something
similar to it and often of volcanic origin. These type of stones are
also usually quite light in weight. The only occasion bubbling may
be evident is with 'Oriented Meteorites'.
Sometimes they will have frothing on the trailing edge of the freshly fallen meteorite.
While meteorites don't have holes, sometimes they will have what
are called "Regmaglypts" or more commonly 'thumb-prints'. If
you could imagine the meteorite being a soft piece of dough or
clay and you pressed your thumb into the surface, it would leave
a shallow indentation. Generally speaking, if a meteorite has
this feature, then the bigger it is, the bigger the
'thumb-prints' will be. Take note of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite
below which shows this feature well.
Sikhote-Alin - Strong regmaglypts with fresh blue/black fusion crust .
When a meteorite is sliced or broken, the exposed interior
surface is sometimes referred to as the "matrix".
Meteorites vary extremely widely when it comes to the matrix
colour. They range from white to black, including red, orange,
grey, tan/brown (common), silver (in Irons), yellowy or even a
mixture of different colours.
(Note the rich black outer
fusion crust at top.)
A weathered dark brown coloured interior.
Depending on the type of meteorite it could be, the interior
could vary quite drastically. The most common is the Ordinary
Chondrite which will generally show small round features called
"Chondrules". (Pronounced: 'kon-drools') These can be different colours and
sizes. Sometimes in weathered or broken meteorites, the
chondrules may be exposed and evident on the surface. This gives the
appearance of a bumpy surface unlike the crusts mentioned above.
The links below provide a valuable insight into what chondrules
Chondrules in NWA 2622.
As previously mentioned, most meteorites have a high iron
content. In ordinary chondrites, there are nearly always small
visible iron flakes. Again this feature can also vary in size
and shape, but visible iron such as this is a good sign. On
Earth, iron is extremely rare in its free natural form and is
only found in a few places around the world. The iron we see and
use in our everyday lives, has to be manufactured and processed
from iron ore. If the stone is completely iron inside then it
is a positive sign, however you would
need to ensure that you don't have an old rusty man-made object
Many, many people confuse old metal objects
Metal flecks through-out the interior of a NWA 1287 slice.
This is a very rare class in which some specific types would not
display many of the above features. For example, Murchison which
fell in Central Victoria, Australia in 1969. This meteorite basically has a
black interior with very small white to grey coloured
chondrules. These meteorites are one of those rare exceptions to
Murchison Meteorite showing small white chondrules and black
This name is given to meteorites which do not have chondrules
and originate from different areas of the solar system. These
meteorites vary quite widely and can have a pale chalky
interior, sometimes with other coloured inclusions or shapes.
They can have fusion crust, metal and other meteorite traits but
will not have the chondrules.
various "Achondrites" - click an image to enlarge.
NWA 3147 (Eucrite)
NWA 1281 (Howardite)
NWA 2705 (Ureilite)
These are RARE! If your specimen has any sort of 'crystal-type'
pieces in the stone then it is probably not a meteorite. There is
a rare class called Pallasites. Out of around the 30,000
different meteorites that have been found; less than 50 are
Pallasites! If your stone has all of the iron meteorite
characters AND contains crystals; it may be a Stony/Iron
meteorite. The crystals are usually green/yellow to orange/black
and can sometimes protrude through the surface.
various "Stony/Iron" Meteorites - click an image to enlarge.
NWA 1827 (Mesosiderite)
To Do Now Or Still Not Sure?
Don't forget to have a look through the other pages of
Meteorites Australia such as the
Monthly Favourites and the
Meteorites Australia Collection.
Many more high quality images of different meteorites are
available to view.
you are still unsure, I can take a look at it
for you. Photos can be sent through via the
Contact Page but please keep
the files under about 1MB as larger ones will most likely be
blocked by the email server. All
verified meteorites require extensive testing and study from an
approved institution to be formally classified and approved as
such. Please also give as many details as possible on
where and how the specimen was found as knowledge of the local
ground, rocks and conditions can be very useful. It is particularly
important with suspected iron meteorites, as many specimens can
be very difficult to pick from man-made iron. Please also state
think it is a meteorite with as many references to the features
presented above. Please feel free to email
any questions or queries you may have but last of all; remember
that more than 99.9% of stones suspected of being a meteorite are
usually just Earth rocks! Thankyou and happy meteorite hunting!
Thankyou for your interest in Meteorites Australia