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How Can You Tell if a Meteorite is Authentic?

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The imager captured this composite of Perseid meteors August 11/12, 2016, from Joshua Tree National Park in California. Because the particles creating meteors are tiny, they don’t add much to Earth’s mass.
Michael Krypel

Q: Is there a simple way that amateur collectors can determine if meteorites for sale are authentic?

Joseph Rusz
Oak Hill, Virginia 

A: First, decide whether you’re beginning a collection or just acquiring a few specimens for “show and tell.” If the former, you’ll want to read all you can about meteorite classification. Astronomy devoted its entire August 2006 issue to meteorites. It’s still a great reference if you can find a copy. If the latter, read at least a little and select a meteorite of each type that shows the characteristics of its category well.

When buying meteorites, it’s always best to examine the specimen firsthand. Learn the basic characteristics that will allow you to distinguish genuine meteorites from “meteor-wrongs.” For example, most meteorites (even stones) contain some iron and will react to a strong magnet.

If you are shopping online, buy from a well-known dealer. Head to an online forum about meteorites, and see what others are saying about the dealer you’re considering. Be careful when buying meteorite samples in online auctions, such as the ones on eBay. Make sure you can return the specimen and get a refund if you have any doubts about its authenticity.

Also, pay attention to the quality and professionalism of the website, which can tell you a lot about the dealer. Does the site provide complete contact information, including a mailing address and telephone number? And how recently was it updated?

The best websites include a good deal of educational material to aid the customer. One example is the Meteorite Market (meteoritemarket.com), which is loaded with useful information.

Raymond Shubinski   
Contributing Editor   
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