Every once in a while, the physics department get contacted to see if we can help someone identify a possible meteorite on PEI. I’m putting this post up on our site for reference for the next time someone asks. While I’m interested in Geology and rocks, I am by no means an expert myself. A geologist is trained in rock type identification, but UPEI doesn’t currently have a geologist as part of its staff or faculty. An astronomer or astrophysicist may also learn how to distinguish between rocks and meteorite fragments (asteroids when in space, meteorites when they land on earth).
There are about 50,000 identified meteorites on Earth right now, most pebble to fist-sized, but most asteroids heat up, fragment and then break into very tiny pieces in the Earth’s atmosphere. Many, many thousands of tons (amount varies depending on source) of material from space lands on the Earth each year, but most of it is in “dust” size or microscopic. Luckily for people and animals, larger asteroids hitting the Earth are more rare and can cause serious damage when they hit. (Source = NASA).
There must be huge numbers of meteorite fragments that are unidentified in the world, but the problem is in both finding it AND recognizing it.
To my knowledge, there’s never been a meteorite found and identified on PEI, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. There’s been quite a few people that have found small to larger pieces of plant fossils on PEI (can be dark brown to black, shiny, with grooves and curved ridges) or smaller dark heavier pieces of rocks that are magnetic to some degree. Most commonly, both types are due to minerals forming in a depression and then being weathered later. E.g. hematite or magnetite — these can attract magnets.
Good sites with a fair number of pictures of meteorites and non-meteorites as well as tests you can perform at home to determine if you’ve found a meteorite can be found are:
- Geology.com (nice overview of both identification but also many other aspects of meteorites.)
- MeteoriteIdentification.com(some information about tests, good pictures about results, some dead links but an excellent youtube video interview with Randy L. Korotev that gives a lot of examples and close-ups)
- Aerolite Meteorites (sell meteorites and have some nice pictures for comparison).
The problem with doing a google search for meteorites and then saying “that looks like my find!” from the images is that people upload pictures of what they think are meteorites and identify them as such, so you will see examples of “meteorite-wrongs” in there as well.
If you like meteorite hunting, rock hunting, fossil hunting or just exploring, keep going, but realize that the surface sandstone rocks of PEI back to the Permian era (about 250-300 million years ago) so the land you’re walking on pre-dates dinosaurs! (Sources: ROM and Paleontology Portal). Fossils from smaller animals are also harder to identify, so you’re more likely to find some plant fossils, trackways from early reptiles, etc than a meteorite or animal fossil on PEI.
- Matt Stimson and Danielle Horne found a great trackway in 2013 and their find, with an excellent picture was written up by the CBC.
- A CBC news article on the fireball seen March 18, 2014 over the Maritimes and parts of Quebec, gives description of the siting and says the the only confirmed Maritime-found meteorite was found in New Brunswick, in 1949.
Good luck and have fun searching!