When a meteor exploded over a village in eastern Turkey in September, residents were frightened by the sound and the illuminated sky. In the weeks that followed, they started picking up small bits of black rock, but considered them insignificant. Then, with the visit of an academic from a university in Istanbul, they learned the tiny stones they’d been finding scattered across their land were a financial godsend.
Last week alone, collectors from Germany and the U.S. spent some $200,000 on the meteorites, according to Mehmet Nezir Ergün, one of the villagers. “I hope everyone finds some. Poor people are always looking for pieces. They need them more than we do,” Ergün told the Doğan News Agency, according to Today's Zaman.
The rocks are being sold for $15 to $60 per gram, and villagers have put fragments up for sale on shopping websites. Ergün said villagers have had inquiries from as far away as Europe, adding that he hoped the findings would bring tourists to the village. Neighboring villagers were starting to visit in search of rock fragments to sell, as well, he said. Videos from the village's fields showed men and women wandering in search of the stones.
Meteorite falls are not as rare as one might expect. About 10 to 50 such events are believed to occur over the Earth each day, according to the American Meteor Society. Most meteorites weigh just a few grams, although they can be much larger. The largest known specimen fell in South Africa in 1920 and weighed about 60 tons.
Meteorites are actually pretty easy to access online. Various sites claim to sell the stones, including the Meteorite Market, and they can even be found on eBay and Etsy. But it can be difficult to validate the authenticity of the small fragments without an expert analysis, and meteorite scams are reportedly quite common.