STILLWATER No white-jacketed scientists probing through telescopes hang out at the Oklahoma Meteorite Laboratory Inc. For that matter, forget telescopes and a laboratory.
“You can see meteorites with the naked eye,” said John R. Martin, director of an operation he runs out of his parents’ house.
Martin, 35, said he doesn’t need a lab because most of his work is done out in the field.
His main mission is to identify whether objects found by people are meteorites from outer space or just chunks of rock making up Mother Earth’s geology.
His equipment for field work is pretty basic a file and emery paper.
He can usually tell by sight if the object is a meteorite, which can range in size from a pea to larger than a basketball.
If unsure, he scratches the rock’s surface to find any chrome-bright alloy of nickel and iron, almost a sure sign the object is a meteorite.
If it’s a meteorite, Martin offers to buy it, with the price per pound depending on its age and composition.
Usually, a recent meteorite can draw $100 to $150 per pound, he said. But don’t throw away any older meteorites because they’re still worth between $20 to $40 per pound.
Most people agree to sell their discoveries, but some times a person might want to keep the meteorites as a keepsake or try to sell them on their own, he said.
After buying the meteorite, Martin usually sells them at a higher price to research laboratories or universities.
“We’re totally self-sustained,” he said. “We don’t usually just sell out everything we get. We’re pretty particular about what we sell out.”
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During the past year, his fifth year in the project, Martin has bought dozens of meteorites that have been sent to the laboratory, he said.
Martin expects even more activity this year as he embarks on a publicity campaign to let Oklahomans and others in surrounding states know of Oklahoma Meteorite Laboratory and last month’s sightings of two meteorites falling in northeastern Oklahoma.
Martin’s received more than a dozen calls about the meteors spotted in the night sky Dec. 9 but so far no one has sent in any meteorites, he said.
He said he saw a meteor over Stillwater coming from the northeast heading southwest and then about an hour later, based on reports he received, another meteor entered the atmosphere over southwest Oklahoma and split into two main masses over Mounds, southwest of Tulsa.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of material that reached the ground. The area up there is pretty much ranchland and the owners of the land don’t get out on it very much. What we’re trying to do is contact them.”
As soon as a meteorite is found, Martin will head to the area to start a search.
“If you find a meteorite you’re liable to find another one in a fairly close proximity,” he said.
Martin has been interested in meteorites since childhood when he saw a large meteorite crater while vacationing with his parents in Arizona.
He attended classes at Oklahoma State University but dropped out to pursue his interest in meteoritics.
“I’ve mainly learned through experience,” Martin said.
Meteorites can be found anywhere in Oklahoma, Martin said. Last year, Martin recovered a 185-pound meteorite in Caddo County that apparently fell about 400 years ago, he said.
“There’s so many meteorites that fall. There’s more than 165 that come over the land surface of the earth each day.” BIOG: NAME:
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