Bad Astronomy

Another meteorwrong

If a rock that falls from space is a meteorite, then one that’s misidentified is a meteorwrong. And I am sure that’s what we have in Texas.

Texas meteorwrong
Photo from Fox 4 and Steve Hudgeons
A land owner there claims to have found a long ditch with a large teardrop-shaped rock at one end. It looks just like a scene from Superman, when Kal-el’s ship crashed into Kansas, in fact. Experts were called out, but the object is limestone, a sedimentary rock that is clearly and most certainly not a meteorite.

I was rather surprised to see a news segment about this that was actually even-handed– not because it was Fox, but because local news in general does not treat scientific stories very well, and tend to be very credulous when it comes to meteorite stories in particular.

So what is this? I’m not sure. It could be a hoax, and that’s the most parsimonious explanation. But it could also be natural, like a channel carved by torrential rain which unearthed the rock. It looks like the ditch is up on a small rise, though, so this is peculiar. A wider shot would help, I think.

Most reports of meteorites are misidentified terrestrial rocks. Slag from factories, ejected teeth from industrial grinders, weirdly-shaped stones, and the like are endlessly shown to scientists. But sometimes a true piece of an asteroid is found, so if you do find something you’re not sure about, it’s better to tell someone! Call a local university and see if they have a geology or astronomy department member who’s willing to take a look. If what you have is real, it could be valuable, both to science and to your wallet.

My thanks to my old friend Mike Fanelli and to BATweep IanDavidB for alerting me to this!