Press Release

Join the race to find billion-year-old rock from outer space

By SpaceRef Editor
August 3, 2004
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Every year more than 30 meteorites must fall on British soil, yet remarkably
there have been only 20 finds in the UK. Somewhere out there are thousands of
meteorites just waiting to be discovered — scientific marvels, used by
scientists to unravel the secrets of the formation of the Earth and the Solar
System, that are the oldest objects you can handle.

Stardate, the Open University/BBC Two astronomy series, is challenging the
public to go out and search for missing meteorites. The programme’s website, live from Friday 6 August, offers tips on where to look and how to make sure they are the real McCoy.

“The website will allow the meteorite hunter to complete a series of simple and
fun tests to see if their rock is from outer space. If the rock passes all the
tests the hunter will be invited to take part in the recording of Stardate in
London on September 27 in order to have the meteorite authenticated and
officially named,” says Stardate producer Mark Bridge.

Dr Richard Greenwood, the Open University’s meteorite curator says: “These are
rocks from space and are the oldest objects you can handle. They tell us about
the formation of the Solar System and the stars that lived and died before the
Solar System formed.”

Dr Greenwood offers some valuable advice for potential meteorite hunters: “There

are two approaches to finding a meteorite; you could either look where other
meteorites have been found, as statistically there is a higher chance of finding

a meteorite there, or, if you are hoping to find something unique search in a
place where no meteorite has previously been found.

“One of the top places in the world to find meteorites is North America, due to
its featureless landscape, which allows the meteorites to be spotted easily.
Therefore, looking in similar landscapes in the UK could also be lucrative,”
says Dr Greenwood.

Britain’s 20 meteorites have been found in: Glenrothes, Strathmore, Perth, and
High Possil in Scotland; Bovedy and Crumlin in Northern Ireland; Pontlyfni and
Beddgelert in Wales; and Middlesbrough, Wold Cottage, Appley Bridge, Rowton,
Barwell, Glatton, Aldsworth (Cirencester), Ashdon, Launton, Hatford, Danebury
and Stretchleigh in England.

Authentic meteorites are very rare and some can be enormously valuable. Rob
Elliott, the UK’s leading meteorite dealer, based in Fife, says: “Collecting
meteorites is certainly one of the most unusual hobbies. But, holding a piece of

four-and-half-billion-year old space rock in your hand can really stir up the
imagination with a sense of awe and wonderment.”

Stardate is an Open University/BBC Two series presented by Adam Hart-Davis and
produced by Screenhouse. It takes an interactive look at astronomical events.
The first programme in the Stardate series was Stardate: Transit of Venus, which

screened on June 5 and June 8 this year.

Editor’s Notes

Fate of any authentic meteorite found: Any meteorite recovered in the hunt will
be properly classified by one of the experts and its name (usually after the
nearest town) will be assigned by the International Meteorite Nomenclature
Committee of the Meteoritical Society (as long as the meteorite is not from a
previously identified strewn field). The meteorite will then be added to the
Meteoritical Bulletin in Meteoritics and Planetary Science and also the
meteorite catalogue of the Natural History Museum, together with the name of the

finder and a description of the circumstances. A small sample of the meteorite
(20 per cent of the total mass or 20g, whichever is the lesser amount) must be
donated to an institution that has well-curated meteorite collections and
longstanding commitments to such curation. In the UK the remainder is the
property of the discoverer (and/or landowner).

The OU/BBC co-production Stardate, which will feature the Great British
Meteorite Hunt, is scheduled for transmission in late September 2004 on BBC Two.

SpaceRef staff editor.