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Russian Meteor Sparks 'Gold Rush' for Fragments

Friday’s meteor explosion over the Russian Ural Mountains set off a display that was worthy of a million-dollar Hollywood production. Injuring almost 1,200 people and causing around $33 million dollars worth of damage, the shockwave shattered windows and knocked out power around the region.

In addition to the massive damage caused by the space rock, it also exploded into at least seven large pieces and hundreds of additional small ones, according to researchers. One of the large fragments fell into Chebarkul Lake, forming an ice-hole experts believe to be eight meters in diameter.

While researchers were not allowed to inspect the ice-hole itself, they were allowed to conduct research around the hole. Scientists at the Urals Federal University recovered 53 small, stony, black objects of small fragments of rock about 0.5 – 1 centimeter in diameter, which were then sent to labs for examination. They were able to confirm the celestial origins of the 53 small particles sampled. The researchers plan to conduct further testing before registering “Chebarkul Meteorite” in the international catalogue. 

"We just completed tests and confirm that the pieces of matter found by our experts around Lake Chebarkul are really meteorites," said Viktor Grokhovsky, a scientist with the Urals Federal University and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"These are classified as ordinary chondrites, or stony meteorites, with an iron content of about 10 percent," he told RIA news agency.

Meanwhile, after the initial shock of the incident, locals began to take part in a "meteorite rush" around the industrial city of Chelyabinsk, 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow. Meteorites are the surviving parts of a meteor that have fallen to earth. Hundreds of Residents have now begun combing through the snow and ice covered streets, collecting stones they hope will eventually prove to be the real thing. However, not all of these treasure hunters are ready to sell the precious stones.

"I will keep it. Why sell it? I didn't have a rich lifestyle before, so why start now?" a woman in a pink woolen hat and winter jacket, clutching a small black pebble, told state television Rossiya-24.

According to one amateur space enthusiast, the estimated value of the remnant chunks could be worth anything up to $2,200 per gram, which is more than 40 times the current cost of gold.

"The price is hard to say yet ... The fewer meteorites that are recovered, the higher their price," said Dmitry Kachkalin, a member of the Russian Society of Amateur Meteorite Lovers.

Naturally, the Internet quickly began buzzing with new advertisements from eager meteorite hunters, hoping to sell what they claim are authentic meteorites. Prices for the meteorite rock started for as little as $33.18.

One seller of a large, silver-hued rock wrote in an advertisement on the portal "Selling an unusual rock. It may be a piece of meteorite, it may be a bit of a UFO and it may be a piece of a rocket!"



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