Specimen Identification

Please note: PME does not currently offer meteorite identification services. See below for more details.

For all other specimens, reliable identification depends on good data, access to the specimen and its original location. An “intelligent guess” might be possible with clear photographs (with scale) and good information about location where found. However, we rely on expertise of UBC faculty and they are not always available. Therefore we are usually unable to help with detailed specimen identification. If we do offer advice, we make no guarantees that it is complete and entirely accurate.

That said, we might be able to help (NOT meteorites) if you send an email to pme@eoas.ubc.ca and include the following information:

  • Photos of the specimen(s), including an object for scale (e.g. a pencil or a coin).
  • The location from which the sample was obtained.
  • Any other relevant information about the specimen.


Meteorite Identification

Meteorite discoveries are extremely rare! If you think you’ve found an unusual rock, please use this page to guide your identification process. We’ve put together a few guidelines to help you decide if the rock you’re holding is, in fact, a meteorite.

Please note, the Pacific Museum of Earth is not equipped to properly analyze the mineralogy and/or chemical composition of meteorite specimens, and therefore does not offer meteorite identification services.

Below are guidelines for meteorite identification put together by the University of Alberta. NOTE THE WORD “POSSIBLE” IN EACH ITEM!

  1. Does the specimen feel unusually heavy for its size?
    If Yes, possible meteorite. Many meteorites, particularly iron meteorites, are quite dense and feel heavier than most rocks found on Earth.
  2. Does the specimen attract a magnet?
    If Yes, possible meteorite. Almost all meteorites contain some iron-nickel metal and attract a magnet easily.
  3. Can you see gray metal specks shining on any broken surface of the specimen?
    If Yes, possible meteorite. Most meteorites contain at least some iron-nickel metal. These fragments may be seen shining on a chipped surface.
  4. Does the specimen have a thin black crust on its outer surface?
    If Yes, possible meteorite. When a meteor falls through Earth’s atmosphere, a very thin layer on the outer surface of the rock melts. This thin layer is called a fusion crust. It is usually black and has the texture of an eggshell.
  5. Does the specimen appear to have ‘thumbprints or dents’ on its surface?
    If Yes, possible meteorite. Often, when a meteor falls through Earth’s atmosphere, these thumbprint-like features called regmaglypts form on the surface.
  6. Does the specimen have any holes or bubbles in it?
    If No, possible meteorite. Meteorites do not have holes or bubbles. Slag from industrial processes usually has holes or bubbles.
  7. Does the specimen consist of a mixture of 2 or more distinctly different materials?
    If No, possible meteorite. Meteorites are usually uniform and not a visible mixture of several materials. Mixtures only occur by geological processes that practically never occur in space.

If the answers to questions 1 and 2 are No, then the rock is almost certainly not a meteorite.  If the rock is actually a meteorite, then the answers to most of questions 1 through 5 should be Yes, and answers to questions 6 and 7 should be No.

Please refer to the following links for more in-depth information about meteorite identification:

  1. Introduction to Meteorites
  2. Self-identification
  3. Professional identification
  4. Types of Meteorites and Meteorite Fall locations at mindat.org.