IMAGES: Truly Heaven Sent?

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Science  09 Dec 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5754, pp. 1593
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5754.1593d

The man who bought the glossy, 19-kilogram orb was certain he'd nabbed a genuine space rock—and for only $10. To his dismay, lunar geochemist Randy Korotev of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, recognized that it was not a meteorite but a coal ball, a compacted glob of peat. To avoid making the same mistake, visit Korotev's A Photo Gallery of Meteorwrongs, which showcases more than 100 objects misidentified as meteorites. Korotev and colleagues have either examined the finds or studied photographs of them. Captions explain why each specimen probably isn't a meteorite and indicate its likely identity. For instance, the coal ball's nearly spherical shape is a giveaway, as is the presence of calcite, a mineral meteorites lack. The site also illustrates criteria for recognizing space stones, including the presence of a fusion crust, a glassy coating formed when the outer layer melts and then solidifies during descent.

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