The biggest meteorite fragment found so far weighed 88 pounds and was estimated to be worth about $ 26,000 – equivalent to 10 years worth of the annual average wage in Santa Filomena, northeastern Brazil. It was found on August 27 and has attracted multiple bidders from around the world.
Locals have hailed the meteor shower as a “miracle,” calling the event the day when “money fell from the sky.” Others have said that it was sent by God as many of the bigger rocks were found near the church.
Edimar da Costa Rodrigues, a 20-year-old local student, recalled seeing the sky fill up with smoke. He immediately received text messages about the meteorite shower. He went out onto the street and stumbled upon a meteorite near the church. The rock he found was small – it measured just 3 inches wide and weighed less than a pound. But Rodrigues was able to sell the fragment to an American meteorite hunter for about $ 1,340.
“The price is getting close to 40 reals [$7.41], and it’s getting higher,” Rodrigues told the Street Journal. “Only a few days ago it was half that.”
He added that the meteorite shower arrived just as many people needed money to pay their bills. There are not a lot of businesses around Santa Filomena, which mean job opportunities are few.
Meteorite hunters from Brazil, the U.S. and Uruguay have flocked to the town since the news of the meteorite impact broke out. Many of them have their eyes on the bigger rocks. A group of four scientists from Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro tried to haggle the price for a six-pound rock. But it appears that the rock will be shipped out of Brazil; an American meteorite collector was said to have offered an attractive lump sum of money.
Not all locals, however, are happy about the influx of foreign buyers. Antonio Miranda, an official at the Federal University of Pernambuco, said that the precious meteorites are a “diamond of a science.” He believes that the rocks should remain in Brazil.
“[For] me, they should be treated the same as the discovery of a diamond or gold deposits, and belong to the person who owns the land on which they are found,” said Miranda.
But many Brazilians cannot afford to buy the meteorites on their land, added Miranda. As a result, moneyed foreign investors and collectors are snatching up the precious rocks to be sold abroad at a much higher price. Miranda hopes that the meteorites will be placed in a local museum as a tourist attraction. This way, said Miranda, local scientists will also be able to study them.
The meteorites are said to be rare chondrites that date back to the formation of the Solar System. These rocks are classified under a type of chondrite that makes up only one percent of meteorites found on Earth. Due to their rarity, they are usually sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
In 2019, fragments of a rare chondrite also fell in neighboring Costa Rica. The rocks were collectively called Aguas Zarcas after the village in which most of the rocks landed. One fragment was identified as a carbonaceous chondrite, a primitive rock that formed in oxygen-rich regions of the early solar system. (Related: Organic matter found in ancient meteorites may hold clues to understanding the birth of life on Earth.)
True to their name, carbonaceous chondrites are rich in carbon. And they may hold clues to the formation of the solar system and the origin of water on Earth.
Space.news has more on recent meteorite impacts.