ASU granted special permission to search for meteorite

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A viewer near 40th Street and Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley captured the suspected meteor on camera. (Source: Viewer Chris Carroll) A viewer near 40th Street and Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley captured the suspected meteor on camera. (Source: Viewer Chris Carroll)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Researchers at Arizona State University's Center for Meteorite Studies have received special permission to go searching for meteorites on White Mountain Apache Tribal land in Arizona.

A meteor, caught on many surveillance cameras last week, landed in that part of the state.

[READ MORE: NASA: Flash of light over Arizona sky was likely an asteroid; meteorites landed in southern AZ]

(According to NASA, an asteroid is a small, rocky body orbiting the sun. A meteoroid is a small particle from a comet or asteroid. Meantime, a meteorite is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface.)

"This is unbelievably fantastic. We didn't think we'd be granted permission," curator Laurence Garvie said.

The debris field is roughly eight miles long, and one mile wide. It covers rural mountainous desert land.

"The chances of anyone finding a meteorite are exceedingly rare," Garvie said.

When they invite the public to bring rocks for them to analyze, only one in one hundred turn out to be meteorites.

Most turn out to be waste from a furnace.

"It's what left over from the smelting process," he explained.

The best test, Garvie says, is a "scratch test," using a piece of porcelain.

Rocks leave a dark mark, while meteorites leave a light scratch.

"They don't sparkle on the outside, and there are almost never holes visible on the outside [of a meteorite]," he said.

New meteorites they hope to find on the tribal land will have a black crust, and hopefully contain clues to the Earth's past.

"We begin to understand what organic compounds seed the early Earth before there was any life on Earth," he said.

ASU houses the largest university-owned collection of meteorites in the world.

Twice a year, they invite the public to bring samples in. Details are on their website: meteorites.asu.edu.

[Photos: Reports around Arizona of boom and flash of light]

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