Using GIS Software for Meteorite Recovery

Meteorites are sometimes called “falling stars” though they are actually just pieces of debris from comets or asteroids that come from outer space. These pieces of debris enter the Earth’s atmosphere and make contact with the surface.

Only about 3% of meteorites are seen when they are falling – this is largely because most of the meteorites that fall to earth fall in desert regions. A meteorite “fall” is a meteorite that is seen to fall and then collected soon after. A meteorite “find” is one that is discovered at a later date after falling. Collecting meteorites is a popular hobby, though it can be difficult to accomplish without the right technology.

GIS Technology for Meteorite Collection

Many people who engage in meteorite collecting have nothing more than simple GPS technology and a map. When they learn of the location of a meteorite fall, they grab their gear and head out. Unfortunately, GPS technology can be finicky and it may not be able to lead you to the exact location of the meteorite.


If you are serious about collecting meteorites you might want to think about investing in a more advanced form of technology – geographic information system (GIS) software. Using this software in combination with free data from government websites you can increase your chances of locating the fallen meteorite while reducing the amount of time, money, and effort spent in the search.

Using GIS to Create Maps

Geographic information system technology can be used to gather geographic data and to gather it on a map. These maps can be as simple or as complex as needed. These maps might show things like land formations, rivers, forests, and other natural resources.


They can also be used to gather and analyze geographic information such as the flow rates for a certain river, the height of certain rock formations, even the population of certain species living in the area. Not all of this information is applicable for meteorite recovery but it points toward the versatile uses of GIS technology.

Recommended GIS Programs

If you are interested in using GIS technology for meteorite recovery, there are a number of different programs to choose from. If you really want the best, consider ESRI’s ArcView technology. At a price tag of $1,600 per seat, however, this program may be more expensive and more complex than the average meteoriticist requires.

A better option may be an Open Source program Quantum GIS. QGIS is free and easy to learn – plus, it offers speedy data rendering and spatial analysis.

Using GIS Software for Meteorite Hunting

Once you choose your GIS software you can use it to answer the two most important questions you need to ask when hunting meteorites. 1.) Where is the strewnfield located and 2.) What is it like? To begin, you should use your GIS program to put down a base layer which provides a reference on which all of your more detailed layers will be built.


This will likely include an outline of the region in which the strewnfield is located as well as basic topographical features. To this basic layer you can add things like roadways, water sources, rock formations, vegetation, and even information from satellite photos for reference. All of this information is likely available on government websites for free.


After you’ve created your base layer and added the necessary details, you will be ready to head out into the field to hunt the meteorite. Along with your magnet, Doppler Radar, and hiking boots, you will find that GIS software becomes a necessary component in your meteorite hunting kit.



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