[meteorite-list] “money from the sky”

From: Darren Garrison <cynapse_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2009 11:56:12 -0500
Message-ID: <hp92s417asq2vri6ei5i8vp2atiio4dkha_at_4ax.com>

Okay, that quote shoud really help in future negotions for search rights.

Good photos in the link.


Meteorite hunter: Find near Aquilla nets $10,000

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

By Ken Sury

Tribune-Herald staff writer

Mike Farmer has spent about a month now in West, searching for pieces of the
meteor that blazed a fiery trail in the Central Texas skies and broke apart over
southern Hill County and northern McLennan County last month, depositing
meteorite rocks across a swath of countryside.

Farmer calls the meteorites ?money from the sky,? noting that they are prized by
collectors, universities and museums. And he should know. Farmer has made a
living chasing meteorites. What he hasn?t been able to find, sometimes he?ll buy
from somebody who did find one and is willing to sell.

Farmer now possesses the second-biggest rock that he is aware of from the West
meteorite. It?s a 4-pound piece of chondrite, and while it is the most common
form of meteorite that falls to Earth, Farmer paid a man more than $10,000 for
that hunk of space rock.

The Tucson, Ariz., resident won?t disclose the actual sale price, but the man he
bought the meteorite from was equally secretive, meeting Farmer at a gas station
where the meteorite hunter peeled off $100 bill after $100 bill to meet the
man?s asking price.

?He can probably buy a new subcompact car,? Farmer said.

The man would tell Farmer only that he found the meteorite in the Aquilla area
on the day of the fall, Feb. 15. Those are the types of meteorites collectors
love, Farmer explained, because they are in pristine condition and haven?t been
subjected to any weathering by the elements.

Though the iron content is low in such a stone meteorite, rainfall will cause
oxidation, or rust, to form on the exterior, he said.

Farmer said he has seen ? and would love to buy ? a slightly larger meteorite
from the West fall. But that individual is holding out for more money than
Farmer is willing to pay, he said.

?That?s fine, but what he has to remember is that this is supply and demand,?
Farmer said. ?While it may be worth more than $10,000 now, if someone finds
bigger pieces later . . . and there will be more pieces found, the market could
collapse, and he?s left holding the bag.?

Prices for meteorites

That larger meteorite is only about 200 grams heavier than the rock Farmer
bought, but for meteorite buyers willing to pay $5 to $10 per gram, that?s an
extra $1,000 to $2,000. Some West residents received e-mails from across the
country offering to pay that price, or higher, if they found a meteorite and
were willing to sell.

One e-mail came from a man who identified himself as a clergyman from the
Midwest who didn?t want to take the time come down and hunt himself but was
willing to pay a hefty sum for a meteorite.

Farmer is far from the only meteorite hunter who descended on the West area,
though the numbers have dwindled since the days right after the fall.

Farmer estimates there are still five or six fellow meteorite hunters whom he
knows in the area. He estimates that they have collected between 200 and 250 of
the chondrite meteorites, ranging from pea size to the one he purchased.

Using Doppler radar images for the first time, Farmer said they did a pretty
precise job of pinpointing the strewn field, the area in which the meteorites
fell. As the meteor broke apart, the Doppler radar picked up the falling pieces,
much like it would measure precipitation, Farmer explained.

The smallest pieces are generally around Penelope and Birome in southern Hill
County, while larger rocks, which travel farther because of their mass, can be
found generally on a path westward toward Aquilla.

Most of the meteorites have been found east of Interstate 35; Farmer has
collected two rocks west of I-35, not counting the one he bought.

Farmer said he understands farmers and ranchers being reluctant to allow
strangers on their land to hunt for meteorites, especially at this critical
planting season, but he doesn?t quite get why they won?t search the land
themselves, particularly because of the possible payoff.

?I had one farmer telling me how tough it is; that he spent $5,000 this year on
fertilizer,? Farmer said. ?I try to point out that if you find a meteorite like
this, you?ve got two years of fertilizer paid for.?

Enterprising landowners

Some landowners have been enterprising, Farmer said. He knows of at least one
West-area resident who was charging meteorite hunters to scour his land, he
said, and then they paid him for the stones they found. But for those hunters,
it was worth it, Farmer said.

?In all reality, I believe the farmers will find (most of the meteorites),?
Farmer said, adding that depending on the area, one could find 10 to 20 small
rocks per acre, while for larger pieces, it might be one meteorite for every 50

Farmer estimates tens of thousands of meteorite pieces have settled on the
Central Texas countryside from last month?s event.

Pieces from the West meteorite already have been shipped to Europe to private
collectors and museums, Farmer said. He knows another rock is in Japan.

Farmer is about to wrap up his time in the West area, having eaten more kolaches
than he can recall, but also losing three belt sizes from all the walking he did
while searching.

He?s thinking about heading to Denmark, because a meteorite that fell there
recently is particularly fragile and, therefore, worth more money.

But just because the commercial meteorite hunters soon will leave the area
doesn?t mean those space rocks are all gone.

?They?ll be finding pieces for years,? he said.
Received on Wed 18 Mar 2009 12:56:12 PM PDT

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