A man who had been using a meteorite as a doorstop is set for a financial windfall, after discovering it may be worth $100,000.
The man, who has remained anonymous, got hold of the meteorite in 1988 when he bought a farm in Edmore, Michigan. The previous owner had been using the meteorite to keep a door open in a shed, after seeing it plunge through the sky with his father.
The new owner kept hold of the meteorite, also using it as a doorstop but allowing his children to use it for show and tell at school. But when he heard about other meteorites being sold in January this year, he began to look into selling it.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute. I wonder how much mine is worth,” he said, the Central Michigan University (CMU) said in a statement.
The man, from Grand Rapids in Michigan, took the meteorite to the CMU, where geology faculty member Dr Mona Sirbescu took a look at the specimen. And she was able to work out that the rock had a lot more value than just a doorstop.
Weighing 10 kilograms (22 pounds), making it the sixth largest meteorite ever found in Michigan, she studied it with an X-ray fluorescence instrument to discover it was a rare iron-nickel meteorite, composed of about 88 percent iron and 12 percent nickel.
Dr Sirbescu has now sent a slice of the meteorite to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC to verify her findings. If confirmed, the meteorite could be sold to a museum or a collector, with the Smithsonian themselves considering purchasing the whole rock.
The meteorite may also contain other rare elements that could increase its value. The owner has said he will give 10 percent of any sale to the CMU to fund earth and atmospheric science.
Meteorites can vary wildly in price depending on what elements they contain. Common stony meteorites, known as chondrites, can sell for less than $25. But iron-nickel meteorites, being much rarer, can be worth a thousand times that depending on their composition.
In February this year, a rare meteorite made of iron sold for $237,500 at auction. Now this unnamed man will have to wait and see what his own rock is worth. For the rest of us, maybe it’s time to double check we’re not accidentally propping a door open with a cosmic goldmine.