A space rock the size of a small boulder exploded above New Mexico 25 years ago this week. Fragments of the boulder, known as meteorites, rained across 10 square miles of east-central New Mexico, near the town of Portales. Local residents, scientists, and meteorite hunters combed the countryside for weeks. They found hundreds of pieces, ranging from tiny pebbles to a chunk a little bigger than a softball.
Many of the fragments wound up in museums and labs. But quite a few stayed in private hands. Today, they’re some of the most valuable rocks on the planet. In 2022, the Christie’s auction house sold the largest piece of the Portales meteorite, which weighed about 11 pounds, for more than $50,000.
Other meteorites can be even more valuable. The Christie’s auction fetched a total of more than four million dollars for meteorites. That included the single most expensive one yet sold — 722,000 dollars for an 18-pound slice of a meteorite from China. And fragments that weigh as little as a few grams can sell for tens of thousands of dollars — several times the value of gold.
Meteorites that were observed during their fall to Earth, such as the Portales fragments, are worth more than those that were picked up at random. And the most valuable of all are pieces of the Moon and Mars — rare and expensive rocks from beyond Earth.
Script by Damond Benningfield