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It has a blackened outer surface from burning through the atmosphere, said Tim McCoy, a mineral sciences curator at the Smithsonian. Inside are flecks of metal and thousands of tiny rocks containing "the primitive stuff left over from the birth of the solar system," he said.
That material allows scientists to look back about 4.6 billion years, McCoy said.
The last meteorite known to strike a building was in New Orleans in 2003, said Linda Welzenbach, the museum's meteorite collections manager. There were other finds that year in the Chicago area.
Space rocks can fetch thousands of dollars from collectors. Meteorite hunters descended on Washington's Virginia suburbs to look for other remnants of the Lorton meteorite.
One was Steve Arnold, co-star of the new Science Channel TV show, "Meteorite Men." Arnold estimates the Lorton meteorite could bring $25,000 to $50,000 on the open market, unless more pieces turn up. But he said Tuesday that none turned up from his search around the doctors' office.
Meteorites have been the subject of legal disputes before. In the early 1900s, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled a 15-ton meteorite belonged to the landowner on whose property it likely landed, not the person who found it.
The doctors' attorney Marvin Miller said Virginia law differs and favors the tenant.
As of Tuesday, the land owners had made no formal demands, but Miller said he would soon ask a court to decide.
"That's the fairest way to deal with things for everybody's sake," he said.
On the Net:
National Museum of Natural History: http://www.mnh.si.edu/
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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