New England Meteoritical Services meteorite testing information.

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Frequently Asked Questions and Commentary about meteorite testing.


The most important page on this site, read carefully


Understand the process before you send your sample

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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. I want to register and name my meteorite with our family name. Can I do this?


Accepted meteorites are listed and registered in the Meteoritical Society database through approval of the Society's Nomenclature Committee. They are named after the town or county where they were found or fell. Meteorites that are found in other countries can be named after the town, province, or even area, i.e., "Nullarbor Plain", in Australia. It is the same for meteorites found in remote areas - Allan Hills, Antarctica for example. So, probably not, unless your family name is the town or county where it was found or fell.


#5. 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? I expect an immediate refund because you did not do complete and thorough testing. "


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 done mostly for the data needed for the classification phase of a meteorite or with samples that simply do not fit into any meteoritical classification system. They are tests needed to determine classification, type, and not generally 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.


#6. 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.


#7. 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 examined and tested by us, and determined to be a meteorite, you will receive the paperwork that describes it as a meteorite and if possible, an initial probable classification. 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's database, and then sell it as a classified and registered meteorite. This second part, acceptance into the Society's database, can take several months to up to a year or more. It is not part of the initial verification.


#8. 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)


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


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


#10. I found a Martian meteorite, it looks exactly like "Black Beauty"!


The "Black Beauty" referred to here is a recently found meteorite classified as of Martian origin. Sold in Morocco and also known as "NWA 7034", it is the only one of its classification ever found. The likelihood that you have found another "Black Beauty" is not quite zero but is about as close to it as one can get. Still, it should be examined to put your mind at rest. And who knows………..


#11. 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.

Not because of your description and that you think it's a meteorite but because it's important enough to you to pose the question and to take the time to write to us.

The second reason is that if you don't send it for testing 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 a university that works with and tests meteorites. But find out!

If you want to know if your sample is a meteorite then the single most important thing that you can do is to put it in the hands of someone who has years or decades of experience testing and working with meteorites. Science teachers, museum curators, and even geologists will have opinions but many send samples to us for a determination or verification.


#12. How is a meteorite tested? What do you do?


The package contents are logged onto a data sheet. Next, the sample or samples are examined by a person who has years or decades of experience in testing, researching, and publishing on meteorites.

After the hand, or "visual" examination, they'll decide if it is a sample of known geology or requires further microscopy examination. This part may require taking a small slice from the surface to look for meteoritic inclusions, clasts, chondrules (if a stone), textures including fusion crust, exterior contraction cracking, etc.

For irons we look for known meteoritic primary and secondary structures. This includes graphite nodules, troilite, schreibersite, rhabdites, Neumann lines, testing for nickel, and we will probably acid etch for further refinement, etc.

If not ruled out at this point then a glass slide (thin section) may be made along with additional chemical testing for a meteoritical determination. After this, if warranted although not included in the verification phase, would come SEM work for classification. This last part is a lengthy peer-reviewed process that usually involves several people and joint facilities or labs.

Classification is not part of the initial verification process and testing. But let's find out if you have a meteorite first.

The above is only a coarse overview of the meteorite testing protocols done by us or universities that may still be testing.


#13. 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 made a complaint 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..


#14. I've sent many samples to you, all come back as "not meteoritical". Are you sure that you know what you're doing?


This was one of the more difficult emails that we have received.

Yes, this person had sent multiple samples over a few years, all were common terrestrial rock fragments but the testing evolved into a negative experience for him. Hearing "no" doesn't sit well with some people - see Commentary.

With each sample test we sent back a complimentary authentic meteorite slice to give the person a better understanding of what to look for along with explanations of what they had sent. We even arranged for the person to visit Yale University and speak with the Curator of Meteoritics about meteorites. The person then sent some of the same samples to an analytics testing company in Canada (at a cost of several hundred dollars) and then sent the data to Washington University at St. Louis. He spent a ton of money only to find out that our testing was correct, none of his samples were meteorites. Still, he filed his blog complaints on social media. To his credit though he later filed a "glowing" retraction on the complaint site.

A similar social media complaint came from a person in China claiming "no one can test meteorites for $20.00" (he was right but failed to realize that the testing program, excepting the submission charge, is mostly underwritten by New England Meteoritical Services). None of his samples were meteorites either.

This is an educational outreach program that affords the public a timely response and determination. We've been doing this for over 30 years. We take a hard look at every sample sent to us and want your samples to be meteorites as they would mean a new contribution to the science and perhaps further our understanding of the early solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Still, the likelihood that your sample is a meteorite is low but it's worth finding out, especially if it turns out to be a rare type. But if it's not then don't be discouraged. Learn from the information that we send and keep looking.


#15. 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.


#16. I'm sending samples from Spain 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 give you the PayPal information. You can pay the testing charge then. Don't forget to put your email address in the package.


#17. 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. Their primary focus is the study of meteorites, cosmic dust, asteroids, comets, samples returned by space missions, impact craters, and the origins of the Solar System.

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:


#18. 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 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.


Commentary - "Rude Admonishments"

 Telling someone that their sample is not a meteorite is unpleasant. People send us samples from around the world, curious and hopeful that they have found one.

  If their sample is not a meteorite, most take the information well, disappointed certainly, but they end up learning a lot about meteorites in the process.

 Some however do not take the "no" very well. They are absolutely convinced they have a meteorite and take to social media complaint sites to decry the examiner in their most negative ways.


 Why send a sample to someone, in professional science, who has studied and published on meteorites for decades and not believe them?

 There is an eminent Lunar geochemist at Washington University in St. Louis. He has several public web pages offering helpful information about meteorites. He begins one of these pages with "Rude Admonishments", opening with the sentence "No, you do not have a meteorite" continuing with blunt, clear statements about fusion crust, magnetics, vacuoles, etc.

  What he's trying to do, in the clearest possible way, is to tell people that meteorites are rare, very rare and just because your rock is funny looking, very heavy, or even smells strange, that does not make it a meteorite.

 Any university, museum, or lab that examines samples for a meteoritic origin for the public does so as an educational outreach. All are helpful to a fault.

  But if, as we have been told by some, you are absolutely certain that your sample is a meteorite, are positive that it's from Mars, contains elements not on the Periodic Table, has alien microbes within vacuoles, or is from another galaxy, then please send it to another lab.

 If, however, you are open to the possibility/probability that your sample may not be a meteorite but want to find out either way, send it to us. You'll not only save a lot of time and money, you'll receive a prompt, helpful response and learn a lot about meteorites from the supporting information that we send.

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