Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Black-Market Trinkets From Space

New York Times (William J. Broad)

Thanks very much to lovely David Petersen for this link.

Ebay and other Web sites pulse with hundreds of sales pitches. “The pieces below have an exceptional patina,” a site called Star-bits.com said of 10 pictured fragments.

The ads are for chunks of meteorites, bits of asteroids that have fallen from the sky and are as prized by scientists as they are by collectors. As more meteorites have been discovered in recent years, interest in them has flourished and an illegal sales market has boomed — much to the dismay of the people who want to study them and the countries that consider them national treasures.

“It’s a black market,” said Ralph P. Harvey, a geologist at Case Western Reserve University who directs the federal search for meteorites in Antarctica. “It’s as organized as any drug trade and just as illegal.”

The discovery of a rich and historically significant meteorite crater in southern Egypt, just north of the Sudanese border, has shown the voracious appetite for new fragments. Just as scientists appeared to be on the cusp of decrypting the evidence to solve an ancient puzzle, looters plundered the desolate site, and the political chaos in Egypt seems to ensure that the scientists will not be going back anytime soon.


Desert Rob said...

These scientists are free to wander the deserts of the world and pick up the rocks themselves. Why do they LET the collectors go out and gather the rocks and then sit back and complain that the collectors aren't sharing? These collectors spend significant funds getting to the desertt locations and in Morocco they aren't allowed to hunt on their own and must purchase them from locals that bring them in from the Sahara.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Broad delivered a piece of smear journalism.

Find here a rebuttal to that article, giving the correct and factual legal situation in Egypt for meteorites and statements by the "quoted" scientists, distancing themselves from that article.