They've stopped looking for pieces of the "fireball" down in West, where, apparently, it's plowin' season. And once the plows start turning up the fields, the samples, which already look like regular old rocks, are going to be difficult to spot. Furthermore, the landowners down there have gotten greedy -- especially after stories began circulating last week that Unfair Park cross-the-street neighbor Heritage Auction Galleries would be auctioning two of the meteor samples, one of which is expected to go for about $15,000.
"After the AP came out with the story, a lot of the local land owners think it's more of a gold mine," David Herskowitz, the natural history consultant for the auction house, tells Unfair Park. "They think it's worth a lot more than they originally thought. So they asked everyone to leave their property and that if there was anything more to find that they wanted to find it."
Originally, many meteorite hunters estimated that hundreds if not thousands of samples would be found. But now, "all the specimens collected wouldn't even fit in a shoebox," Herskowitz says.
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Keep in mind: These aren't the meteorites discovered by the University of North Texas astronomers. In fact, this very weekend they've got something else planned for their space nuggets.
Ron DiIulio, director of the University of North Texas's planetarium and astronomy lab, tells Unfair Park that the meteor samples are being preserved and examined -- because they've turned out to be such rare finds after all. "We had all thought there would be hundreds found," DiIulio says. "But only about 20 samples have been found."
Tomorrow, though, DiIulio and fellow astronomer Preston Starr will show off their findings at a family science event held on the UNT: Space Frontier, which will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"I'm going to give away a meteorite every hour to one child," DiIulio says. Of course, it won't be the latest discoveries, but others he has purchased from other (final) frontiers.