Buying a meteorite for US$3,000 a kilo? It’s almost certainly a fake, says leading Chinese scientist

Online sales of rock fragments pulled after astronomy expert warns it is exceptionally unlikely that they came from last week’s fireball

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 5:53pm

Rock fragments that were claimed to be the remains of a meteorite that was seen in the skies above southwestern China last week have been removed from sale after a leading scientist warned that they were almost certainly fakes.

Members of the public have been searching for fragments after a huge fireball was spotted in the skies above Yunnan province on October 4, when many people were out watching the full moon as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.

Meteorite hunters used sport utility vehicles, GPS and drones to scour Shangri-La county after Nasa calculated that was the likely landing site for whatever remained of the meteor.

Fragments of rock priced at 20,000 yuan (US$3,000) per kilogram appeared for sale on Taobao, a popular e-commerce site in China, according to the Beijing Morning Post.

But Xu Weibiao, chief scientist at Purple Mountain Observatory, China’s official institute of astronomy, told the newspaper: “They are all fake.”

He said the hunters were unlikely to find any trace of the meteorite even though it entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a higher velocity and exploded at a lower altitude than one seen over the Xilin Gol prefecture in Inner Mongolia in 2014.

Fireball brings Mid-Autumn surprise to Chinese skywatchers seeking the full moon

Scientists from Beijing Planetarium were unable to find any trace of fragments from the 2014 meteor, according to C hina Science Daily.

Local government officials told the local news wesbsite yunnan.cn that they were aware of the sale and would take action.

The company told the website that it did not allow fake goods to be sold and would fine and ban anyone found to be selling them.

Taobao’s parent company Alibaba also owns the South China Morning Post.

Rocks that were claimed to be from the area were later removed from Taobao, although other “meteorite rocks” remained on sale.

Xu had told the Beijing Morning Post that “99.9 per cent” of the rocks were fakes.