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How to Find Meteorites with Your Kids

how to find meteorites

Strewn fields can be miles long. Deserts preserve meteorites better an forests.

This is a beginner’s guide to how to find meteorites with a metal detector so you can take your family for an out of this world treasure hunt.

Meteorite hunting may be the most challenging of treasure scavenger hunts for kids and their families. This hunt for treasure activity will often take you far off the beaten path into less than favorable climates and success will depend on lots of luck and knowledge gained through experience.

However, this treasure hunt with your family is also sure to be a memorable adventure, could be profitable, and will teach your kids about geography, navigation technology, geology, cartography, and astronomy through hands-on experience they won’t find in a traditional classroom.

Where are Meteorites Found

Strewn fields are the quick answer to where is the best place to find meteorites. Strewn fields are the area where the fallen asteroids were “strewn” when falling to the Earth, usually in an elliptical pattern. However, not all strewn fields preserve meteorites.

Meteorites can and have been found all over the world. But most are found in deserts, making any dry arid region the best place to find meteorites for the beginner. This is because a major component of these rocks is iron. In humid environments such as forests, that iron decays. Also, in deserts with few plants and rocks, meteorites stand out and are easy to spot with or without your equipment. Although a forest may have had a large strewn field, they won’t be around for long or easy to find.

Strewn Field Maps are Kept Secret

Finding maps of areas you wish to hunt is a task in and of itself. There’s not a single good comprehensive collection of maps and because of the value of meteorites, expert and professional meteorite hunters don’t like to share their maps with beginners. You can easily find well-known strew fields throughout the U.S. that are known to produce easy finds. So the first step is to google. You’re looking for known strewn fields in the region you want to search and news reports of recent meteorite sightings.

You can also search The Meteoritical Society’s database for known meteorite finds. After entering your search parameters, click on the meteorite name to get the coordinates of where that meteorite was found. You can click the “view Google map” button to see exactly where the meteorite was found. The proximity search will allow you to see if other meteorites have been found nearby, which will give you an idea as to how densely populated that strewn field is or was.

You also don’t necessarily need to go meteorite hunting in a known strewn field area. You can turn a walk into any dry region into a hunt for meteorites.

Make Your Own Strewn Field Map

Anytime you have a successful hunt, you want to mark the exact location on your GPS. From this, you and your family can make your own strewn field map and plan future searches. Experienced hunters follow the meteorite hunting code of marking each find on the GPS and taking a picture of it exactly where it was found.

meteorite gold metal detector

For meteorite hunting, you need a high end metal detector such as this Garrett found on Amazon.

How to Find a Meteorite: The Equipment and Their Use

Other than your strewn field map, you’ll need some basic equipment to actually find meteorites, with the metal detector being the most important. However, the cheap metal detector for beach combing won’t cut it. Experienced meteorite hunters recommend spending more to get a metal detector made for detecting gold. If you are not inclined to spend the several hundred to over a thousand dollars on a new gold detecting metal detector, opt for a used one at about half the price.

Other basic equipment you will need include:

Magnet—some use a magnet tied to the end of a string, while others use a magnet on the end of a stick. Run the magnet over the spot where your metal detector made a hit to determine if the find is magnetic. Almost all meteorites will be magnetic, although not every magnetic object you find will be a fallen meteor.

GPS—for navigation and to mark your finds.

Camera—to document finds and off course take candid family photos of the treasure hunt.

Pick Axe—you may need to dig a bit to get to the find.

how to find a meteorite

Meteorites are magnetic, heavy for their size, and my have thumbprint like impressions.

What Do Meteorites Look Like? Meteorite Identification

Not every magnetic rock that sets off your metal detector is a meteorite. The first basic test is to use your magnet. If it’s magnetic, you are off to a promising start, but certainly not yet guaranteed you’ve found a meteorite.

Examine the rock and look for regmaglypts. These are impressions on the rock that look like thumbprints and are created when the meteor passes through the atmosphere. Other characteristics commonly found in meteorites include, but are not limited to, rounded corners and edges which occurs when passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, having rust and metallic colors, having a fusion crust—a shiny darker area on the rock, and feeling heavy for its small size.

You should know that not all meteorites have all of the above characteristics. If you think you’ve found a meteorite, place it into a sealable plastic bag to carry back with you. Unless you are a highly experienced meteorite hunter, then you will need a meteorite testing lab or college professor of geology to confirm your find.

The success of this treasure scavenger hunt is not about whether you and your kids actually find a real meteorite. The success of meteorite hunting lies in the hunt itself and allowing the kids to tackle major parts of the hunt from planning, map making, using the technology, and to trying to identify the rocks you find.

*Meteorite photo by Museum de Toulous/flickr

*Meteor crater photo by Alan Stark/Flickr

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