Colorado Couple Finds Rare Meteorite

Space Rock May Be Worth More Than Gold

Sharon and Richard Walker bought a metal detector to try gold prospecting, but unearthed something better -- a rare iron meteorite.

The Colorado Springs couple discovered the 8.5-ounce space rock (pictured, left) just 45 minutes into their first outing. The rock was heavy for its size, had strange markings and was magnetic.

The two, both Department of Defense investigators, knew they had something special. Jack Murphy, curator of geology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, confirmed it.

Murphy and the Walkers showed off the meteorite during a news conference Thursday.

"We were trying to find gold and we come to find out the meteorite might be worth more than gold," said Walker, 58.

That's because iron meteorites are uncommon. The Walkers' space rock, found in October 2000 near Cotopaxi, is the first iron meteorite found in Colorado in 30 years and the first in the country since one recovered in Nevada in 1995.

Only 14 of the 75 known meteorites found in Colorado are iron. The rest are stone.

"This is exciting," Murphy said. "This is a real advancement for science."

The Walkers' meteorite isn't related to the two fireballs seen streaking across the skies earlier this week from Utah to Kansas to New Mexico. Murphy said their rock probably hurtled to Earth about 100 years ago.

The Walkers donated a piece of their rock, about three-quarters of an ounce, to the museum. Another piece is being analyzed at UCLA by John Wasson, considered one of the world's experts on iron meteorites.

The Walkers haven't decided what to do with the rest of the rock: keep it, donate it or sell it. Richard Walker said they have been told the meteorite per ounce is worth more than gold.

Murphy said such discoveries are invaluable in helping answer more questions about the universe. "They're little pieces of rock that come to Earth free of charge," he said.

Museum officials said Wasson has told them the new find is significant because it represents a new grouping within one of the main classifications of iron meteorites.

Wasson's chemical analysis shows the rock also contains nickel, arsenic and iridium.

Most meteorites are from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Murphy said iron meteorites likely aren't found often because they're heavier and slam into the ground with more force, burying themselves deeper.

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