Museum Offers $20,000 For Meteorite Fragment From New England Fireball

A fireball lit up the sky over New England on Tuesday morning, and one museum in Maine is offering $20,000 to anyone who can produce a significant piece of it. 

The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, which is set to open its doors in 2017, believes the meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere somewhere over the state, based on the hundreds of eyewitness accounts reported to the American Meteor Society. The terminal explosion, which is typically when a fireball fragments, probably occurred about 18 miles west of Rangeley, Maine, according to the museum.

The museum is offering its five-figure reward to the first person who can turn over a piece of the meteorite that weighs at least 1 kilogram, or about 2.2 pounds, but plans to display any recovered fragment in its forthcoming Meteorite Hall.

“This is an exciting opportunity and we need the public’s help,” Museum Director Barbra Barrett said in a release.

Some meteorite fragments are very small, while others can weigh several dozen tons. Even decent-sized pieces tend to be extremely hard to find for a number of reasons.

Some fragments look like the heavy black rocks most people think of when they think about meteorites, but most resemble “nothing more than mundane terrestrial rocks,” according to the AMS. Once on the ground, they usually aren’t glowing or even particularly warm. 

Ho New / Reuters
Meteoritescan range from a few grams to several dozen tons in size. These Martian meteorites are seen at auction in New York City.

Anyone considering hunting for meteorites would benefit from a trip to a museum to see other samples, AMS advises. 

Another good trick for meteorite-hunters is to attach an extremely strong magnet to a walking stick because the iron and nickel found in most meteorites make the fragments magnetic.

“Meteorites have been known to literally ‘jump’ out of loose soil in the presence of a strong magnet,” AMS states.


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