New England Meteoritical Services meteorite testing information.

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Frequently Asked Questions and Commentary about meteorite testing.


The most important and helpful page on this site, read carefully


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#1. Will my samples be returned?


Yes, all samples sent from within the USA are returned. For International mailing we ask for the return postage to send them back. Please keep the sample size small, 10 to 20 grams. Larger samples may require additional return postage.


#2. Will my sample be damaged in testing?


No, we do not do what is known as "destructive testing". We may make a small slice on the oxidized exterior to examine the interior mineralogy but even this is not usually noticeable.


#3. Can I find a meteorite with my metal detector?


Yes, around 95% of all stone meteorites contain some degree or percentage of ferric iron. Metal detectors will react to this. However, there is also quite a bit of felsic iron in Earth's mineralogy, it's the 4th most common element in the Earth's crust. So, while Earth rocks do contain varying amounts of iron it's mostly in an oxidized, non metallic form. This is different than the "free" iron seen in meteorites but some metal detectors will detect this. Metal detectors will also react to iron-rich sediments such as hematite, magnetite, goethite and to many foundry artifacts and byproducts.


#4. Actual email : "You tested my sample and said it was not a meteorite but you also said that you did not make thin sections or test for nickel in my sample. Then how do you know it's not a meteorite?"


The short answer is that we know because you sent us a double terminated quartz crystal, also known as a "Herkimer Diamond", found in Herkimer, New York. We understand that many people are not familiar with the mineral diversity seen in terrestrial rocks but for us this is recognizable geology. It is the same if we receive a garnet-studded rock (eclogite) or a limestone (a fossil-laden sedimentary rock) for example. This is known geology with structures, textures, and crystallization not seen in meteorites but common in earth rocks. These can be quickly identified without additional testing.

But it's the longer answer that's important here. There is a lot of misleading information on the web about meteorites. It's not that the information is wrong but more that it's easily taken out of context. People will read that the "only way to know if it's a meteorite is with thin sectioning (a 30 micron thick sample on a glass slide), SEM testing (scanning electron microscopy), and chemical testing, including nickel" because, as some write, "if you find nickel in a sample then it's most likely a meteorite". In truth, these different tests are mostly done to confirm iron meteorites or for the classification phase of a meteorite. They are tests not always needed for the initial examination and determination.

Note: Martian and Lunar basalts, angrites, ureilites, and several other very rare types require additional collaborative testing protocols.


#5. Do you test all samples for nickel?


Many websites write about the need for nickel testing of all specimens. This is miss-leading.

Nickel testing is important for some submitted samples but not all. Finding nickel in the range of 4 to 30 percent Ni in an iron sample is a pretty good beginning argument for an iron meteorite.

We receive a huge diversity of samples sent to us from around the world from people, museums, and universities who believe or hope that they may have a meteorite. Some of these - granites, lava's, limestones, magnetites, hematite, foundry objects and "slag" byproducts, etc., are all easily identified in a few minutes with microscopy. Nickel testing is not needed for samples of known geology.

So, no, we do not test everything for Nickel.


#6. I found a meteorite, how do I sell it.


The first thing that you need to do is to have it examined and verified as a meteorite from a testing lab that verifies and or classifies meteorites. If verified you can then sell it as an unclassified meteorite if you like. Additionally, you can move towards formal classification and registration with the Meteoritical Society, and then sell it as a classified and registered meteorite. Classification is not part of the initial verification.


#7. We saw this land, it was too hot to touch, but you said it is not a meteorite? Then what is it?


Well, we don't doubt what people who send us samples believe but landing hot is not supported in actual witnessed Falls. See, Fusion crust (Fusion Crust)


#8. How large a sample do you need for testing.


Small samples are fine, 10 to 20 grams is ideal.


#9. I think I found a meteorite. It's heavier than any other rocks in the area, has a burnt looking covering but does not attract a magnet. I broke off an edge and can see shiny flakes. Do you think that I should send it for testing?


Yes, for two reasons.

One, because it's important enough for you to write and ask. Second, because if you don't send it then you'll always be wondering. The testing service is very inexpensive so send it and find out. Or, if not to us, then to any other lab or university that works with and tests meteorites. But find out!


#10. How can you test a sample for only $25.00?


You can't, we can't. Examining your sample can be a fair amount of work. One person from China complained that it can't be done for the $20.00 or $25.00 testing charge. He was right, but this is an educational outreach program. The additional is funded by New England Meteoritical Services..


#11. How long have you been testing meteorites?


For over 30 years now. Our website, is one of the oldest meteorite sites on the web, started in 1994.


#12. I think I found a meteorite, will send for testing. If it's not a meteorite can you tell us what it is?


The testing service is to identify meteorites. If your sample is not meteoritical then we go no further with analysis. There are over 5500 minerals on Earth. Their identification is beyond the scope of the testing service offered. However, we do try to give you an opinion of what it is and a referral to a university that may help if you are interested in finding out more.


#13. I'm sending samples from Europe for testing. How do I pay the testing charge?


For internationally sent samples we use PayPal. Mail the samples, we will email you upon arrival and you can pay then. Don't forget to put your email address in the package.


#14. I see many references to the Meteoritical Society. What do they do?


The Meteoritical Society is an international organization composed of over 1,000 scientists and contributors representing 52 countries. The Society writes and publishes meteoritical guidelines and classification criteria needed for acceptance into their registry database.

They also maintain the records all known meteorites in the Meteoritical Bulletin and publish "Meteoritics and Planetary Science", a leading peer-reviewed journal of planetary science. For more information see:


#15. I am certain that I have a meteorite. It passes every test on websites online - the "streak" test on porcelain, it attracts a magnet and has lots of fusion crust and flow lines. I am sending it for you to register it with the Meteoritical Society.


Hmmm, well, let's make sure that it's a real meteorite and we can go from there.

As mentioned in previous questions, much of the information online can be misleading but maybe you're right, maybe you do have a meteorite. After doing the suggested online "home" tests the most important thing that you can do is to put your suspected meteorite in the hands of someone who can tell you for certain. So, send it to us, another lab, or to a university that is still testing. It doesn't matter which.

What matters is that you follow through and have it examined. If it turns out to be a meteorite, great, congratulations. If not, it's disappointing but not the end of the world. Meteoritics is a fun and fascinating multidiscipline science, learn more about it and keep looking!

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