Executive director

Get a Big Reward for Finding a Meteorite

A Maine museum is offering thousands of dollars in prize money in an "out of this world" contest.

Anyone who finds a hefty piece of meteorite from a meteor seen over Missouri this week could get $25,000 from the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum.

The meteor's flash was seen in a number of states and accompanied by a sonic boom.

"It would just add something to our collection," said the museum's executive director, Barbara Barrett. "Fresh meteorites are great for scientific purposes but what an iconic image that was, seeing the fireball over the arch in St. Louis."

To qualify for a shot at the winnings, someone would have to find a piece of meteorite weighing a minimum of 1 kilogram, email the museum a picture, have the museum verify the picture is of a meteorite and allow the museum to test the specimen to see if it is the meteorite in the picture.

"If it's fresh, it's going to have this thing called a 'fusion crust,'" said Barrett. "It's a black coating on the outer part of the meteorite from burning its way through the atmosphere."

Even without a new space rock, this museum has more than 40,000 specimens, 6,000 or more of which are from outer space.

Those include rocks from moon and Mars, including the largest piece of the moon on Earth, weighing 58 kilograms.

Finding a fallen space rock, however, is a difficult task.

A previous contest to find Maine meteorites in 2016 yielded nothing.

"We tried this before, offered a $25,000 reward," said Barrett. "To this date, no one's found anything despite that effort."

The museum is still managing just fine and has plenty of work in front of it already.

Its multi-million dollar building project, ahead of a December grand opening, is wrapping up, an effort curator Dr. Carl Francis called "one of the highlights of my career."

Francis says the museum's specimens have lots of meaning, and that they're much more than a tourist draw in a small western Maine town, part of a region rich in mineral history.

Instead, Francis calls them a connection to a history that stretches back more than four billion years, one the public will get to see in full in a few weeks.

"It's more than looking at a rock," said Francis. "These rocks have the average composition of the entire solar system. Imagine that."

If you do find a piece of the meteor in Missouri, you're asked to email a picture of it to Maine Mineral and Gem Museum at info@mainemineralmuseum.org.

The opening of its new exhibit building is slated for Dec. 12.

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