David Mazurek lived an ordinary life in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was completed by a large rock he’d always used as a doorstop, but his life would be upended when he discovered just how much that rock was really worth.
One Man’s Trash
Mazurek had always placed an uncanny value on the large rock he used to prop his door open. Though it had come with a piece of property he’d purchased in the 1980s, there was a reason he kept the rock by his side.
While most families wouldn’t bother moving a heavy rock from place to place, Mazurek couldn’t bring himself to part from the 23-pound, misshapen rock the family had always used as a doorstop. The rock first came into the family when he bought a farm out in Edmore, Michigan in 1988, when the previous owner said that it was just part of the property. What was it that made the rock so noteworthy that the owner would bother explaining that it came with the property?
More Than Meets The Eye
From the outside, the Mazurek family stone looked like an everyday chunk of the Earth, it was only when you tried to lift it that it became clear it was unusually heavy for its size. The Mazureks were content with letting its weight serve a purpose, except when their children wanted to bring it to show and tell at school. In the past year, however, its constant presence by their door was soon going to change.
Out Of The Ordinary
When Mazurek was first touring the property with the intention to purchase it, he saw the large, old rock propping open a barn door. Despite seeming like it should be another ordinary object, something about it caught his eye. He decided to risk looking too stupid to ask the owner about the rock, but to his surprise, the owner had a story to tell Mazurek that was far from ordinary. He only hoped after hearing it that the rock would stay on his new property.
Other Worldly Possessions
According to the first owner of the farm, the rock didn’t have earthly origins after all. He explained to the bewildered Mazurek that the rock had come streaming towards the earth from outer space. Though he was only a young boy when it hit, he shared that he remembered, “it made a heck of a noise when it hit.” It had been nighttime when the impact occurred, so the man and his father would have to wait to investigate.
Swallowed By Earth
When they awoke the following morning, the farm’s old owner and his father decided to investigate and see if they could find the source of the big boom that had shaken them to the core the evening before. What they discovered on their property was an unmissable crater. Of course, it didn’t make sense for there to simply be a hole in the ground without evidence of what caused it. As they began to investigate further, their questions would soon be answered…
Steaming Hunk Of Metal
Buried into the depths of this new crater, the man and his father saw what looked like a sort of metallic rock. They decided they might as well dig it out and keep it as a family heirloom, if they could. With the help of a pair of shovels, they unlodged the meteorite before tugging it up to the surface. It was heavier than they’d ever imagined and still warm. Not thinking about its worth, they kept it at their home for the next 50 years.
Missing In Michigan
The previous owner of the farmland may have been certain that the meteorite hit in the 1930s, and to be sure, it’s an event that would be hard for anyone to forget, but there aren’t any records of a meteor event that hit Michigan in the 1930s. Mazurek thought the story was cool, but didn’t think much of it. After all, if the event only happened in a small town, it couldn’t be verified. Either way, the previous owner insisted Mazurek keep the rock.
Stuck To The Ground
After Mazurek moved into his Edmore farm, the rock became a regular presence in his household, where he and his family also used it as a doorstop. The only time it left was when his kids would take it to their school for show and tell, sharing with their classmates that the massive rock had dropped down from the heavens. Mazurek never bothered to try and corroborate the story, but in recent days, he realized what a mistake that had been.
Dropping Like Flies
This past January, Michigan became the site of a significant meteor flash, the likes of which had rarely been seen in a densely populated area. Dozens upon dozens of small meteorites showered down onto the streets, exciting both civilians and scientists alike. Not only was it the biggest flash that Michigan had seen in memory, but it also happened close enough to a number of research facilities, so that teams could take many otherwise impossible measurements. The event would have serious consequences for Mazurek.
Small And Strong
Michigan’s January meteor shower had far-reaching consequences, despite it being rather on the small side. According to the experts, the meteor was an average size, a vast difference from the 22-yard diameter meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013. Scientists began to rush to do research on the event, including seismologists, who normally study earthquakes. Others simply wanted a scientist to check out the meteorites they’d found. David Mazurek had never thought about his own before then, but suddenly it became a prospect full of potential.
Welcome To Earth
One of the things the researchers wanted to try and discover from the most recent event was how often meteors actually enter the Earth’s atmosphere without humans detecting them. They figured there must be hundreds or thousands of meteorites crashing down that no one ever knows about, much like the meteor that was sitting next to the door in David Mazurek’s home. With an endless cycle of coverage, Mazurek thought that perhaps it was time he tried to confirm the legend of his rock.
Meaningless Or More?
Though the scientific consequences of the meteor in Michigan were clear, there was another unexpected consequence that affected the local population more significantly. Many people who had collected meteorites off of their property had decided to bring them into nearby universities in order to have them examined. David Mazurek heard of this practice, but it wasn’t until he realized that there was more than simple curiosity driving the trend that he thought maybe he should have his rock examined as well…
Trinkets For Change
When yet another report of someone trading in their slice of a meteorite for a thousand dollars or more appeared on David Mazurek’s TV screen, his thoughts once again flicked towards the rock that had been used for nearly a century to prop open a door. Despite its weight, he tempered his hopes that the rock was the real deal, and called up Central Michigan University to see if he could bring it in for examination.
Little To No Chance
When Mona Sirbescu received Mazurek’s call, she figured he was just another local hoping to cash in on the hype. Since the meteor event in January, she’d received hundreds of calls, but none of the meteorites she’d examined turned up anything remotely interstellar. “For 18 years, the answer has been categorically ‘no’ – meteor wrongs [sic], not meteorites,” Sirbescue explained to the Central Michigan University newspaper. Neither one expected how out of the ordinary this case would be.
At First Sight
The day that David Mazurek struggled into Mona Sirbescu’s lab had been ordinary up until the moment he walked in with a 23-pound rock in his arms. Sirbescu was stunned. Though she had figured Mazurek was bringing in just another regular rock, she could see right off the bat that the rock had definitely celestial origins. Suddenly, what she thought was a routine examination became an exciting curiosity. Before they could determine the meteorite’s worth, she had to see what it was made of.
With the number of reports that had been coming out after the meteor flash, it begged the question of how exactly these scientists were figuring out that a piece of rock, even one from outer space, was worth a thousand dollars or more. For starters, most meteorites are made out of primarily iron, which means they’re magnetic. This also accounts for their density. Though there are several basic home tests one can do, Sibescu wanted to cut to the chase.
Seeing Right Through
Sirbescu brought the rock to one of the geology labs on the university’s campus where she could survey the interior of the meteorite with an X-ray fluorescence instrument. As she expected, the meteorite was mostly composed of iron. Sirbescu calculated that it was composed of roughly 88% iron, while the remaining 12% appeared to be nickel. While nickel might not sound extraordinary in comparison to something like diamonds, it appears on Earth’s crust only in small amounts, which only served to increase the meteorite’s worth.
A Slice Of Heavan
The next step of Sirbescu’s examination was to remove a small slice of the meteorite, which she then would send to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC in order to confirm that her suspicions were correct. Taking the crosscut sample is one of the most important aspects of meteorite confirmation, as it allows the researcher to see that the rock is truly a composite of metals, with the nickel showing up as shiny flecks throughout the heavy iron.
A Rare Find
Sirbescu was already impressed, but confirming that the rock had such a high percentage of nickel was truly exciting. “I could tell right away that this was something special,” the professor enthused. “It’s the most valuable specimen I have ever held in my life, monetarily and scientifically,” she added. Usually, iron meteorites were composed of 90-95% iron while the rest would be nickel and other trace minerals. Now, they just had to wait for the Smithsonian’s assessment.
The Final Check
Before the Smithsonian made any decisions regarding the slice of meteorite they received from Professor Sirbescu, they wanted to perform one more check, though their experts also agreed with Sirbescu’s conclusions. For the sake of meteorite research, they also sent the sample to John Wasson, who is an expert in Earth, planetary, and space sciences at UCLA. Wasson is set to perform a neutron activity analysis that could reveal even more precious minerals hidden inside that would increase its value even more.
To Cash The Cow
With rare meteorites like the one that David Mazurek held onto for three decades, there are still only a few options when it comes to deciding how to move forward. Should the Smithsonian choose to purchase it off of him, it will likely be housed in a museum collection. According to Sirbescu, “What typically happens with these at this point is that meteorites can either be sold and shown in a museum or sold to collectors and sellers looking to make a profit.”
For his part, Mazurek seemed ready to sell the meteorite the moment he heard that it might bring in a big payday. The scientists who have evaluated the former doorstop believe that it could be worth more than $100,000. While he’s clearly excited to cash in, Mazurek also announced that for whatever amount of money he earns off of the meteorite, he’ll happily donate 10% of his earnings to the university. After all, it’s a small price to pay for a piece of the big bang.