Astronomie - The Indonesian meteorite which didnt sell for $1.8m ?



Josua Hutagalung with his precious find

The story made headlines around the world - a meteorite crashes through the roof of an Indonesian villager's home and turns out be worth millions, changing his life forever.

It was suggested that the find was worth $1.8m (£1.36m), making the man an overnight millionaire - and if he wasn't, they debated whether he'd been short-changed selling it to US buyers.

But neither of those things is true. The meteorite is not worth millions, and no-one has been ripped off.

This dream come true is not quite as it first seemed.

A rock falls on a house...

Let's get back to the actual story - fairy tale or not, it is fascinating. Josua Hutagalung, a coffin maker in a village in Sumatra, was minding his own business in early August when he heard a noise from above and - seconds later - a loud crash coming from his house.

At first, Josua was too scared to check what it was: the unknown object had come through his roof with such speed and force that it had cut right through the metal roofing and buried itself 15cm (6ins) deep into the soil floor.

He eventually dug out a strange small boulder weighing about 2kg (4.4lb).

"When I lifted it, it was still warm," he told the BBC's Indonesian service. "That's when I thought that the object I was lifting was a meteorite from the sky. It was impossible for someone to throw a rock that big on to the roof of the house."

It's not every day that a boulder from space crashes through your roof, so Josua posted pictures of the exciting find on Facebook. And the news began to travel, far beyond his village, through Sumatra and Indonesia before reaching international ears.

Meteorites are essentially ancient rocks that have hurtled through space and - by pure chance - crash landed on earth.

Unsurprisingly, there is scientific interest in them. Questions range from where they come from to what they're made of and what they can tell us about the universe.

Added to this is collectors' interest. Meteorites are more than four billion years old - older than our own planet - so it's easy to see the fascination they hold.

And it was these collectors who became interested in Josua's stone, eager to buy it. But in August, global travel was all but shut down because of Covid and getting on a quick flight to Indonesia was impossible.

That's when some potential buyers in the US contacted fellow meteorite enthusiast Jared Collins, an American living in Indonesia, and asked whether he could help.

He made it to Sumatra, met Josua and inspected the boulder for authentication and to make sure it was properly stored. Contact with water, for instance, would have quickly damaged the meteorite.

"It's incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to hold something that is a genuine, physical remnant from the very early stages of the creation of our solar system," the American told the BBC this week.


Around 2kg of space rock

"I immediately noticed its distinctive jet black interior and a thin light brown, pock marked exterior, which was created when it was travelling through the atmosphere.

"It also had a very unique smell which is hard to explain in words."

Once the buyer in the US agreed with Josua on a price, the meteorite was sold, with Jared as the intermediary.

Both sides stress that the undisclosed amount was fair and that no-one got cheated in the deal. It was, however, nowhere near the figure that began popping up in headlines across the world - not even close.

A potential goldmine

So where did the $1.8m price come from? It's a mix of a hopeful seller and some amateur maths.

Aside from the one large rock of about 2kg, there were a few smaller bits of the meteorite found near Josua's home. Some of those were also sold and two of them ended up on Ebay in the US.

Quelle: BBC

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