RESPONDING TO PUBLIC REQUESTS FOR ANALYSES: LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE STATESBORO METEORITE
Based on a thin section analysis of the specimen, we determined that it was an ordinary chondrite, probably of petrographic grade 4 or 5. XRF and XRD analyses confirmed that the sample was a meteorite. A type specimen was sent to the Smithsonian Institution for official classification, and the sample was determined to be an L5 ordinary chondrite. Results of isotopic and noble gas analyses are forthcoming.
By definition, any rock found on the coastal plain is unusual, and probably has an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, it is generally impossible to determine with any certainty how rocks get there. One exception are goethite nodules typically found in south Georgia soils. These are the most common geologic samples brought to the Georgia Southern faculty by the public. They are dense, come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and can easily be mistaken for meteorites by non-geologists.
The geology faculty members in our department have more than 100 years of combined experience working in the field around the world and examining specimens for the public. Yet until we identified the Statesboro meteorite in 2003, none of us had ever found a meteorite. In fact, seldom do we find rare or valuable material in the rocks brought to us by the public.
Until we identified the Statesboro meteorite, our dealings with the public and their samples had been informal. It was enjoyable for us to meet new people, and educational for those who brought us samples. Events surrounding the Statesboro meteorite have forced us to permanently change the way we handle requests by the public to examine or analyze their geologic specimens. In this presentation we describe our experience dealing with the owner of the meteorite, our procedures for dealing with the public before and after we identified the meteorite, and our work to derive scientific results from limited samples in a short period of time.
Regional publicity of the Statesboro meteorite discovery has increased significantly the rate at which we receive examination requests from the public.