$100K me­te­orite found in Mich. was used as doorstop for years

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Fiona Kel­li­her

DETROIT – A me­te­orite worth about $100,000 had been used as a doorstop at a Michi­gan farm for years, ac­cord­ing to Cen­tral Michi­gan Uni­ver­sity.

Ge­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Mona Sirbescu of Cen­tral Michi­gan Uni­ver­sity first iden­ti­fied the 22.5-pound chunk of iron as more than just a doorstop when the owner asked her to look at it ear­lier this year.

Al­though many peo­ple had asked her to ex­am­ine rocks in the past, this time was dif­fer­ent.

“I was ex­hil­a­rated,” Sirbescu said. Me­te­orites are bro­ken-off pieces of as­ter­oids that come from outer space and en­ter the earth’s at­mos­phere.

To test her sus­pi­cions, Sirbescu im­me­di­ately be­gan ex­am­in­ing the prop­er­ties of the iron, such as its mag­netism, weight and com­po­si­tion.

She sent two small slices to the Smith­so­nian in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to val­i­date her find­ings.

A col­league there fur­ther an­a­lyzed the sam­ple, in­clud­ing with an acid test to re­veal the Wid­manstaet­ten pat­tern, a prop­erty of most iron-nickel me­te­orites that can­not be faked.

On Jan.17, Michi­gan ex­pe­ri­enced a me­teor flash that shook the state and left small rocks scat­tered in Liv­ingston County as it blew apart en­ter­ing the at­mos­phere.

But this chunk was from a much older as­ter­oid: When the man from Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, bought his farm in the Ed­more, Michi­gan, area in 1988, the pre­vi­ous owner told him that the doorstop was a me­te­orite from the 1930s. Ed­more is about 55 miles west of Sag­i­naw, Michi­gan, and about 45 miles north­east of Grand Rapids.

“The story goes that it was col­lected im­me­di­ately af­ter they wit­nessed the big boom, and the ac­tual me­te­orite was dug out from a crater,” Sirbescu said, but she added that the tale has been passed down with­out eye­wit­ness con­fir­ma­tions.

The me­te­orite is the sixth-largest ever found in Michi­gan.

Next steps, Sirbescu said, in­clude us­ing a nu­clear re­ac­tor to help de­ter­mine from which as­ter­oid it orig­i­nates.

As for nam­ing the as­ter­oid: Both Sirbescu and the Smith­so­nian agree that “Ed­more” fits the bill.

MACKEN­ZIE BROCKMAN/CEN­TRAL MICHI­GAN UNI­VER­SITY

Pro­fes­sor Mona Sirbescu looks at a me­te­orite pos­si­bly trac­ing to the 1930s.

GIL­LIS BENE­DICT/LIV­INGSTON DAILY

Robert Ward, of Prescott, Mich., holds a me­te­orite he found on a Michi­gan lake about 50 miles from Detroit.

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