Meteor-right or Meteor-wrong?

By From page A4 | May 25, 2012


GIL RECCHIA shows what he believes to be a meteor he collected near Folsom Lake years ago. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum

With all the local interest in meteors in the past month, more people are bringing out their specimens and asking, do I have a real one or a meteor-right? Or do I have an ordinary rock, or what is affectionately called, a meteor-wrong?

One such person is Gil Recchia who believes he has a piece of a meteor that fell in El Dorado County several years ago.

The 84-year-old resident of El Dorado claims that about 12 years ago, he and a friend were coming from Pollock Pines and witnessed a meteor coming down. “I thought it fell in the ocean,” he said.

Then three years later, while out looking for mustard greens in the wash behind Costco, he found a five-pound piece of rock that looks like a meteor but which is very different in appearance from the Sutter’s Mill Meteor that fell in April.

The piece he found has a dull black gloss to it, is very heavy, and has a somewhat bubbly exterior. He tried to verify what he had by contacting the University of Arizona, but they said they weren’t interested because they already had more specimens than needed. Locals he talked to weren’t much help either.

So what does a person do who has found an unusual rock and thinks it might be a meteor?

According to a geology website, one can make a quick assessment by visually inspecting the specimen. Real meteors have what’s called a fusion crust which is a thin layer of black caused by the intense heating a meteor experiences when entering the atmosphere. Meteors also don’t have small pinprick holes or cavities in their surface or any quartz. And since meteors contain a significant amount of iron and nickel, they are denser and magnetic. However, rarer meteors, such as the Sutter’s Mill Meteor, have little iron and thus are only weakly magnetic.

Another way to check a specimen is to find an expert who will take a look at it. Dr. Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute said that if people think they have a meteor, they can bring it to him for a personal inspection at the SETI Institute. But they have to make an appointment first. The Institute is located at 189 Bernardo Ave, Mountain View, CA. Jenniskens can be reached at 650-810-0216.

People can also bring their samples to the museum of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park on Saturdays at 10 a.m. when Jenniskens is there. Since he is not at the park every Saturday, people should check with him first. They can confirm that by contacting him at his email address which is [email protected] or by calling him at the number listed above.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.


Dawn Hodson

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