Case 7: California Meteorites and Meteorwrongs

Numerous meteorites have been found in California including chondrites, achondrites, and irons. Many of these are housed in the UCLA Collection of Meteorites. A few examples are exhibited in the top half of the case: Chuckwalla (IAB iron), Cargo Muchacho Mountains (CO3), Stewart Valley 009 (LL5), Chocolate Mountains (ureilite), El Mirage Dry Lake 004 (LL6), Neenach (L6), Red Rock (IIIAB iron), Needles (IID iron) and Pinto Mountains (L6). Also on display is the type specimen of Novato (L6) that fell in Marin County on 17 October 2012.

Every week several rocks are sent in to UCLA by people who suspect them of being meteorites. Very few are real meteorites; those that are not are called “meteor-wrongs.” Several examples of common (and not-so-common) meteor-wrongs are shown in the bottom half of the case. Such samples include copper ore, a sulfide nodule, magnetite, hematite, iron slag, green silicate slag containing manganese spherules, petrified wood, basalt, obsidian and volcanic scoria.

Among the most common meteor-wrongs are the iron ores magnetite and hematite. These rocks can be distinguished by the colored streaks they make when scratched against an unglazed tile – black for magnetite and red for hematite. A tile showing these streaks is on display.

For more-comprehensive definitions, please see the Glossary.