Desert Gold Diggers

Finding and Identifying Meteorites

While metal detecting for gold, one should also keep an eye out for meteorites. Many can be detected with a metal detector, or by eye for the very experienced. Some meteorite fields are even located in gold areas such as in northwestern Arizona. However meteorites are found almost everywhere. Increase your chances of finding something interesting and learn about meteorites. Not being an expert, this page will concentrate on links to general information, pages showing meteorite locations, pictures of meteorites and hints to identifying meteorites. Note that the term meteorite can refer to either the original fall or to just a fragment.

General Information on Meteorites

The University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has several good links. One of these links is Meteorites and Their Properties by David A. Kring which is an online version of the booklet by the same name and a good introduction to meteorites. An Introduction to Meteorites is also very good (Note that this site seems to be gone as of 1 Aug 05). A few of the better books are listed in the references below.

Identifying Meteorites

Be on the lookout for rocks that look out of place, that do not look like other rocks in the area. Most meteorites will be heavier than earth rocks of the same size, iron meteorites much heavier and stony meteorites somewhat heavier (around 50% heavier). Most will be magnetic to some extent and most are conductive. If you see quartz, then it is NOT a meteorite. It is also not a meteorite if it is porous or has vesicles (small cavities, usually in volcanic rock). One good simple test is a streak test. Rub the specimen across a tile of unglazed white porcelain, called a streak plate, and note the color of the streak. A fresh (not heavily weathered) surface of a meteorite will leave no streak while magnetite has a black streak and hematite has a reddish brown streak. Be careful that you are not getting a streak from the weathering on a meteorite.

DGD member Tom Crosslin (President of Detectors Unlimited) held a very informative and interesting class on meteorite detection in October of 2001. A variety of meteorites and similar looking terrestrial objects were displayed. Some things that were mentioned are as follows. Meteorites are usually smooth, may have a fusion crust, may have chondrules (small dark spheres), may have silver looking sparkles, have no vesicles (small cavities), no visible quartz, are somewhat magnetic and most are conductive (similar to hot rocks). If using a metal detector, it should have a manual ground balance.

Listed below are some of the better web sites that discuss meteorites and how to identify them. Many have pictures of both meteorites and earth rocks that may be confused with meteorites. Note that some of the club members have experience finding and identifying meteorites. If you find a suspected meteorite, ask around at an outing or meeting.

Meteorites and Metal Detectors

Shooting Stars - Metal Detecting for Meteorites has several interesting articles about testing meteorites with metal detectors. There is also a comparison of various detectors with both meteorites and earth rocks. Well worth looking at if one is using a metal detector to hunt for meteorites.

Known Meteorite Fields

Arizona Meteorites has a nice map of Arizona meteorite fields with pictures and info and a list of meteorites. Excellent site for Arizona meteorite locations. The article, Seven New Meteorites Added to New Online Arizona Meteorite Map mentions the map and provides some interesting information on Arizona meteorite finds. Delos Toole Free Articles is a list of interesting links. One of the links is a nice map of Arizona Meteorite Falls which also includes gem and mineral locations. Thanks to Carl Wruck for finding this link.

Gold Basin

Interesting background information on the Gold Basin strewn field can be found at Meadview's Gold Basin Meteorites and at Gold Basin Meteorite Story by Ingrid "Twink" Monrad. Nice pictures and a discussion of Gold Basin meteorites can be found in The Gold Basin Meteorite from the May 2002 Collectors' Corner of the Meteorite Times. A follow-up article, Bob's Findings, has more pictures. Since this strewn field is still being mapped, please contact Jim Kriegh if you find one in this area, his e-mail address can be found at the bottom of the last link.


Arizona Meteorite Dealers

The best way to identify meteorites is to see or own some. The following dealers are based in Arizona and have additional information along with a variety of pictures on their web sites. I have no direct knowledge of these dealers and this listing does not imply any recommendations.

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This page was last updated on 7 August 2010.