Meteorite expert to speak at Eureka College
EUREKA -- Randy Korotev has spent his life seeking meteorites, but has found meteor-wrongs are a lot more common.
"I get contacted every day by folks who think they have meteorites," said Korotev, an associate professor at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University, St. Louis. Only one or two of the rocks have Korotev convinced.
Korotev, a lunar geochemist, will speak about lunar meteorites at the 53rd annual William Thomas Jackson Lecture in Science at 7:30 p.m. April 2 in Becker Auditorium in the Cerf Center at Eureka College.
Lunar meteorites have Korotev's attention because, as a chemistry student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969, he had an opportunity to study some of the earliest samples of moon rocks obtained by the Apollo 11 mission. A lunar meteorite is a rock found on Earth that was blasted off the moon, likely by the impact of an asteroidal meteoroid.
"I got interested in it and have been studying the Apollo samples since I was 20," said Korotev. His presentation will include a contrast between the Apollo samples and what has been learned from random collections of lunar meteorites.
Calling the collection of lunar meteorites random may be overstating their frequency. Only 47 documented lunar meteorites have been discovered – none in North America.
That doesn't mean they don't exist, said Korotev. They just haven't been found.
"I suspect that rocks from the moon have been falling out of the sky throughout geological history," he said. "It just so happens that nobody in North America has found one yet."
In 1988-1989, Korotev spent two months as a member of the field team for the NASA-NSF Antarctic Search for Meteorites program. The team collected more than 800 meteorites, including one from the moon and one from Mars.
Now he collects from eBay.
He can gain free access to government-owned meteorites, but personal collection lunar meteorites don't come cheap. Current auctions are asking for $1,000 per gram. Many fakes are also available, but Korotev said he knows which sellers to trust.
"There are some serious meteorite collectors and dealers that are self-policing and they don't have much tolerance for people who sell fake rocks," said Korotev.
For laypeople who would like to discover a meteorite, the options are limited. The best place to search is a desert area with no other rocks.
Antarctica, Africa and the Middle East have generated the only finds. Occasionally, watchers see meteorites fall from the sky, but not often. David and Dee Riddle of Bloomington had a metallic mass bust through a window. Originally identified as a meteorite, it has since been determined it is more likely a manmade object – although still of mysterious origin.
"Not everything that falls from the sky is a meteorite," said Korotev.
Who: Randy Korotev, lunar geochemist
Where: Becker Auditorium, Cerf Center, Eureka College
When: 7:30 p.m. April 2
Info: Korotev's Web site, www.meteorites.wustl.edu, helps laypeople identify meteorites and "meteorwrongs."