18 March 2024

Meteorites are the oldest pieces of matter we can find on Earth. Scientists accurately calculate their age to be 4.567 billion years. There are several places in Poland where they can be found.

Professor Szymon Kozłowski, astronomer and meteorite expert, explains how to identify a meteorite and where to look for it. He works at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw and is also a member of the Polish Meteoritic Society. His meteorite collection, which he started in 2000, now includes around 160 specimens.

His favourite specimen in the collection is one of the Morasko meteorites. In the vicinity of Poznań – Morasko, so-called iron meteorites have been found since 1914. There are seven meteorite craters around which about a thousand meteorites have been found so far.  Six of them are in Prof. Kozłowski’s collection.

But how to distinguish a real meteorite from a random stone? Professor Kozłowski explains that 80-90 percent of meteorites look similar; they are black or rust-colored stones with a molten shell. All their edges are rounded, and they usually have no sharp edge. Most meteorites contain metallic iron, which gives them a strong magnetic signature. A simple magnet test can often identify a meteorite. Also, good-grade metal detectors should respond to stony meteorites – chondrites. Sometimes their weight can also be an indicator, for example if we take such a meteorite in one hand and an ordinary earth stone of the same size in the other, the first one will appear heavier.

“The first and basic way to search for meteorites is to go to a place, where we know that a meteor shower once fell. There are several such locations in Poland,” said Professor Kozłowski.

In 1868, 10 km from the town of Pułtusk, the world’s largest meteorite shower took place. At that time, 70 to 100 thousand meteorites fell at once. So far, 10 000 of them have been found. “They are practically in every meteorite collections in the world. There must have been a lot of them left in the fields near Pułtusk, so you can look for them there. I have not found any meteorites here, but my colleagues have,” admits Prof. Kozłowski.

The second such place in Poland would be near Łowicz. In 1935 an iron meteorite shower fell 10 km south-west of this village. About 60 meteorites have already been found there. Every few years we learn of individual discoveries of further fragments.

The third place in Poland is the already mentioned Morasko, where about 1,000 meteorites have been found so far, but new ones are still being found.

As the expert explains, meteorites in Poland can be bought, sold, exchanged and collected. Those found in Poland cannot only be taken out of the country.

To find out more places, click here. 

Prof. Kozlowski is a professional astronomer by day, specialising in extragalactic astronomy. Meteorites are his passion, which he talks about, among other things, on his YouTube channel “W Gabinecie Astronoma” https://www.youtube.com/@WGabinetAstronom .