Meteorite Hunters: The race to find extraterrestrial treasure
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
It's a sweltering summer morning on a dry lake bed near Lovelock Nevada. A flat desert landscape with seemingly no signs of life stretches in all directions. It's nearly dead silent, until, it's time to roll.
Dave Libuszowski, his father, and his friend Richard Garcia are on the hunt.
"When a new fall makes it to the earth it's like a stampede," said Libuszowski.
Evolving technology gives them a leg up, helping them to find the recent falls.
"We're able to correspond it to exactly where it's at and we can get our stuff together and rush right to the scene," he said.
The most recent meteor we witnessed over the Las Vegas valley fell on an Indian reservation in Arizona, making it difficult for meteorite hunters to gain access because of tribal laws. There's been no recent fall at the dry lake bed near Lovelock but meteorites have been found in the area.
Meteorites are made up mostly of iron, so hunters come equipped with a powerful magnet on a stick and a keen set of eyes. They often joke about rocks that might look like meteorites.
"A leave-er rite. Leave 'er right there," said Libuszowski.
The hunt is tedious work but dry lake beds are a great place to search. On the day News 3 followed the hunters, Richard Garcia came up with a potential find. They're trained on what meteorites look and feel like. One sign is a rock that feels heavier than it looks.
"That's a tell that you have something that came from up there," Garcia said. "This is exciting. You're looking at something that's four and a half billion years old from the creation of our solar system. This is something that no person has at home unless they bought it from a dealer this is one that I found. No one else has this."
The finds are photographed, weighed and stashed away. Garcia's meteorite weighed 77 grams, he said he could probably get a dollar a gram for it but they hunt for fun and say that causes friction with money hungry hunters.
"In some cases, it can almost be like gold hunters. It can get a little vicious," said Libuszowski. "This is the 1849 gold rush for meteorites right now. A hundred years from now people are going to come out and not be able to find as many."
That’s because hunters are quickly finding what’s already on the ground and rush to the scene when a new one falls. If you find the right one, you could strike it rich.
"F for a brand new fall depending how rare it is and what type it is, could run into the thousands of dollars for one gram of that meteorite," said Garcia.
For these hunters, the goal is finding a piece of our universe’s history.
"Did it come from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars or did it come from somewhere else," said Garcia.
As far as that fireball that landed in Arizona, News 3 learned a team of scientists from Arizona State University was granted permission to search on the Indian reservation. After 132 hours of looking, they found 15 stones from the fall.