We humans are collectors. We like to keep pieces of our childhoods, relics from big events, souvenirs from vacations. People scooped up pieces of the Berlin Wall as it fell, others have little containers of Mount St. Helens volcanic ash, and dust from the moon (to turn into beer, of course) are all popular collectibles. So I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising that someone wanted a meteorite to add to his or her personal collection of doohickeys, but the Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory in the Netherlands would really like its space rock back.
The Meteorite of Serooskerken fell to Earth in 1925, landing in the southwest Netherlands province of Zeeland (an apt name for a space rock, no?) It’s one of five meteorites that have ever landed in the country—I guess they don’t like going Dutch?—so it’s been prized ever since, safely stored in a museum. Or so they thought.
Scientists think Meteorite of Serooskerken is a chunk of the asteroid Vesta, a giant asteroid examined up close by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft a few years ago. The spacecraft found mountains, boulders, valleys, craters, and cliffs on the proto-planet, and took a bunch of high-resolution images of it (check out the 3D video of Vesta below). Vesta is one of the biggest, perhaps even the second largest, asteroid in the belt, and it’s estimated that 5-6% of meteorites that make it to Earth are from Vesta.
From what officials at the museum believe, the meteorite wasn’t the main prize for the burglars who struck on Monday night. They took a bunch of stuff from the museum’s safe, so maybe they saw the meteorite in there and couldn’t resist. It’s unclear what else was in the safe, though some reports suggest that other meteorites were taken as well. It’ll be hard to sell the thing, though. I always think about this when museums report paintings stolen—what are the thieves supposed to do with those paintings? I mean, you don’t want to steal them only to unload them at a garage sale, right? So you find some rich art-lover to fork over the dough, and what, hope no one puts the pieces together when they have the work appraised and authenticated?
I’m not sure what a meteorite would be worth—on Ebay, various rocks purported to be meteorites are listed anywhere from $3.25 to $1,780 for one that supposedly came from Chelyabinsk. But at this point, given that there’s an amber alert out for the Meteorite of Serooskerken, it’s unlikely that anyone would buy it, so maybe the thieves will give it back.
Or maybe they’re aliens and are long gone. If you know, you should contact the Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory.