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Science, Maths & Technology

Hints for Hunters

Updated Wednesday 4th August 2004

Make the most of your meteor hunting with our tips for the best kit and good places to search

Meteorites can fall anywhere, so your garden is as good a place to find them as anywhere else. Professional meteorite hunters often use something called a meteorite cane to help them look and they're very easy to make at home. Simply take a magnet and tape it to the end of a long stick (walking sticks and golf clubs are ideal). Strong magnets are best such as Neodymium magnets which you can find for sale on the internet. Magnets salvaged from the back of old speakers are a good bet too. With your meteorite cane, even large gardens can be easily searched. Simply jab at any suspicious rocks lying on the surface to see if they are drawn to the magnet.

While a meteorite cane can be a great help, there is no substitute for a keen eye. A meteorite that's just lying there waiting to be discovered may be a different colour and simply look out-of-place, contrasting with the other rocks. Or it may be lying in an area where no other rocks are found.

Good places to search
If you intend to look outside your own property, please be aware that you must first have the permission of the land-owner to look on their land. You cannot remove any rocks without their consent. Remember, even seemingly derelict land or public areas such as pathways and old walls do belong to someone and it is illegal to damage or tamper with them in any way. If you remove rocks from an area, they still remain the property of the land owner.

Meteorites can and do fall anywhere on Earth, but some places are more favourable for finding meteorites than others. Areas where meteorites have been known to fall in the past are particularly good, such as Barwell in Leicestershire, Easter Essendy in Perthshire, and Glatton in Cambridgeshire – all of these are relatively "young" falls, well within the survival age of British meteorites.

It's interesting to note that only one small stone was ever found of the Glatton meteorite – the general rule is "if you find one, there's probably dozens more just waiting to be discovered", and so there are probably more Glatton meteorites out there somewhere.

A small meteorite, about the size of a finger-tip Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission
This little Irish meteorite is only about the size of a walnut.It was 1 of only 4 meteorites found, shortly after it fell near Leighlinbridge, Ireland in 1999.

Are there any more out there, still there waiting to be discovered?

Farmers often find old meteorites. Surface rocks in the fields are a real nuisance and can damage the plough, so these are picked up and transported away, usually ending up in a rock pile at the edge of the field. As meteorites feel much heavier for their size than normal rocks, they've often been used as doorstops, or as weights around the farmyard. So if you live on a farm or you are friendly with a local farmer and have obtained their permission, farms can be a really good bet.

If your garden has a dry stone wall or a mortared wall with natural local stone you should certainly have a closer look. A meteorite that is quietly rusting away as part of a stonewall will create rusty streaks and watermarks below the stone, and possibly stain other rocks around it. Please remember to check who owns the wall before you examine the rocks, it is illegal to remove stones from walls that do not belong to you.

Poor places to search
Beaches and coastlines are not very favourable for finding meteorites. Any rocks found here are likely to have spent many years in the sea before being washed-up on the beach. The salt water would erode away the meteorite long before the tides could bring it to the land. Wet and boggy areas should also be avoided.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

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