Those who wish to begin collecting meteorites should not begin by searching randomly for stones that look like meteorites. Then you will probably not get a single stone in your collection!
The best way to start is by buying one’s first meteorites. There are many dealers in meteorites where one can buy stones from space. At national, and especially international exhibitions of fossils and minerals, one can find a great deal of such material. To find a meteorite oneself, one can either search in an area where a meteorite has recently fallen, or one can search in old known fall sites. For example, in recent years there have been found several tons of the iron meteorite Muonionalusta in northern Sweden after collectors began to search systematically using metal detectors. This is a meteorite that fell several thousand years ago. There are several places on earth where such great meteorite downfalls can be found.
Even though meteorites are evenly distributed throughout the whole world, there is great variation with regard to how easy they are to find. The first problem is that they are not easy to discover among other kinds of stone, but because they have some other typical characteristics, such as iron content, most of them can be distinguished by means of a magnet. In areas with much vegetation, geological processes and climate variations, they are difficult to identify. On the other hand, in places such as deserts and glaciers they are all the more exposed. Here they can also be preserved for thousands of years without appreciable deterioration.
When meteors fall to the ground as meteorites, they are often observed by many people as intense fire balls. If one gathers much information about the fall, from many places, one can relatively easily calculate its angle and height into the atmosphere, and thereby find a probable fall area. Sometimes there can fall hundreds, maybe thousands of stones, and the chances of finding some are much greater.
The Sahara and other deserts are excellent places to search for old meteorites, and an overwhelming number have been found in recent decades. Both ordinary chondrites and rarities such as Mars and moon meteorites have been found during recent years. Bedouins in the Sahara also search for meteorites and fossils with great success, and this is looked on as a good source of extra income.
There are no places on our planet where one finds more meteorites than in the Antarctic. This is because the ice is an excellent preservative. Ice glaciers “calve” stones up towards their summits, and here there have been found an overwhelming number.
The first meteorite was found in 1912 by an Australian expedition, and in the 1960’s several more. In 1969 Japanese glaciologists found 9 meteorites in less than 3 kilometres, but it was first in 1976 and until the present time that the number of finds has increased dramatically. In 2007 the number has risen to more than 13,000 meteorites, in which all kinds are represented.
(The Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program) is a program supported by funds from “the Office of Polar Programs of the U.S. National Science Foundation” and from “the Solar System Exploration Division of NASA”. The ANSMET program is the most important in the search for meteorites in the Antarctic.
Most natural history and geological museums have meteorites. Some have very comprehensive collections of meteorites, for example Naturhistorische Museum in Vienna and Smithsonian Museum in the state of Washington D.C. The Natural History Museum in Oslo has on show most of the Norwegian meteorites, and also some from abroad.
The abbreviation stands for the International Meteorite Collectors’ Association, and is an organisation whose main aim is ethical and correct dealing in meteorites. Their mark gives a guarantee that the meteorite that you buy is genuine and corresponds with the description. See http://www.imca.cc.
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