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Take a look inside Arizona State University's meteorite vault

Posted at 10:32 PM, Feb 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 00:38:48-05

They light up the night sky. Filling those who witness them with jubilation and can fill the pockets of those who find them. 

It turns out there's no better place to learn about what makes meteorites so special than this highly secured vault at Arizona State University. 

"This is the largest university-based meteorite collection in the world," said Laurence Garvie, Curator for the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University. "They represent materials from the beginning of our solar system, almost everything you see in here is 4.5 billion years old."

The space rocks of all sizes travel billions of miles through space until crashing down on our little planet we call Earth. 

"Over the surface of the Earth, probably have about ten, up to ten meteorite falls per day," Garvie said. 

But very few end up being salvageable. Making finding one, especially some the size we picked up, extremely rare. But it's not always about size, pebble-sized rocks from Mars can fetch a pretty penny as well. 

The value centered around the premise that these jagged rocks are the fingerprints of our past. 

"They tell us about our early solar system, why does it have the composition that it has, why do we have rocky planets near the center, why is the Earth the way it is," Garvie said. 

Big questions that can come with big price tags. A 70-pound meteorite, just a piece of what crashed down 50,000 years ago in Winslow Arizona, just sold in a Christie's Auction for $237,500. 

According to Christie's, it is the highest price for a meteorite sold through an online Christie's auction, and the highest price ever paid for a Canyon Diablo meteorite.

It had been estimated to sell for $150,000 to $250,000. The meteorite is referred to as a Canyon Diablo iron meteorite because it is made of iron and comes from Barringer Crater (also known as Meteor Crater) in Winslow.

The famous site is where a meteor crashed into the desert nearly 50,000 years ago and draws thousands of visitors every year.

It is rare for several reasons. Only about two percent of all meteorites are made largely of iron. Further, very few of those are regarded as aesthetically impressive enough to be considered natural sculpture. It's natural beauty, showing the universe could be our greatest artist. 

Think you found a meteorite? ASU scientists can help you know for sure. Bring your potential space rock to the Center for Meteorite Studies Saturday, February 24 to see if you have a space jewel.