After a meteorite supposedly fell to Earth in Tamaulipas Tuesday night, pieces of it have appeared for sale on social media amid some doubt what it actually was.
Prices for the bits of rock and ash range from 150 pesos for the ashes to more than 50,000 pesos for the rocks.
“I have Martian stones from the meteorite. They are original in good condition,” assured one online seller who offered the rocks at 56,988 pesos (US $2,682). Another offered shovel-fulls of ash at 3,800 pesos (US $179). “This is the original ash from the meteorite. Don’t be fooled by the ash from a carne asada. We are distributors.”
Not to be left out, a store in Guadalupe, Nuevo León, is selling souvenir t-shirts featuring a large fireball and the legend “I survived the 2020 meteorite.”
The meteor was seen in the skies above Nuevo León Tuesday night and many observers shared photos and videos of the glowing celestial object, which was also caught by a webcam mounted on a building in Monterrey.
The Civil Protection agency was called to the presumed crash site, where the meteorite appears to have set fire to bushes and trees near a home in Lázaro Cárdenas, scorching an area measuring four meters in diameter.
The director of Civil Protection in Ciudad Victoria, Julio César Cantú, said that 250 grams of rocks collected from the crash site were to be sent to the National Autonomous University (UNAM) for further study.
While some on social media blamed aliens or Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, for the meteor, it is likely that it was part of the yearly Draconid meteor shower which began the night the meteor was seen and continues through October 11.
Although geophysical testing is necessary to confirm a meteorite’s authenticity, there are a few things potential buyers can look for. Meteorites do not contain small holes called vesicles, are typically extraordinarily heavy and almost always are composed of a significant quantity of extraterrestrial iron, meaning a magnet should adhere to them.
Daniel Flores Gutiérrez, a researcher at UNAM’s Institute of Astronomy, is skeptical that an object from space actually fell to Earth.
He clarified that the bright light seen over the skies of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas was not a meteorite but an especially bright meteor, called a bolide or fireball, that enters Earth’s atmosphere and explodes in spectacular fashion.
The burnt brush scene in Lázaro Cárdenas is also atypical, as freshly fallen meteorites are not hot. According to NASA, “objects from space that enter Earth’s atmosphere are — like space itself — very cold, and they remain so even as they blaze a hot-looking trail toward the ground.”
Cosmos Magazine estimates that approximately 17 meteorites hit Earth each day.