By CULLEN SMITHIt looks like cross between a piece of volcanic foam and a hunk of West Coast coal, but scientists today ruled it out as a meteorite.
National Radiation Laboratory scientists today pored over the 15cm by 7cm by 3.5cm grey-black object found in a Dunsandel paddock yesterday after a massive sonic boom above Canterbury.
Dunsandel woman Tanya Haigh found the mysteriously light piece of rock and handed it to police last night suspecting it might have been a fragment of the meteor that flashed across southern skies just before 3pm.
Under international protocols for man-made objects thought to have come from space, police contacted the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which called in the boffins to check whether it was radioactive and a hazard.
Christchurch-based National Radiation Laboratory group general manager Jim Turnbull said today the object may well have come from space, but it was almost certainly not a meteorite. Neither was it radioactive.
"I think we can state with some confidence that it's not a meteorite," Mr Turnbull said.
The object's density was about one-tenth of what would normally be expected of a meteorite.
He said the object would be held at the laboratory until Miss Haigh as the "owner" indicated what she wanted done with it.
Canterbury University had indicated an interest in the object if it was proved to have come from space, but the university's expert geologists were overseas at present.
Mr Turnbull said the university's geology department was the "most obvious place" for further analysis.
"They would be able to determine quite quickly whether it's a metal or some form of lightweight rock material or a naturally-occurring material," he said.
"Probably the only way that you'd actually get a real handle on it would be to section it, look at the cross-sectional characteristics and possibly take some of the material and subject it to further analysis."
That would probably destroy the object or alter it markedly.
Mr Turnbull said the laboratory "would not want to go there" without the owner's permission.
"They may be quite happy just to have it back to sit on their mantelpiece and look at, or put it on Trade Me."
The laboratory was "quite happy" to hold the object and had contacted police to get them to find out from the owner what she wanted to do.
Mr Turnbull said there was no doubt something entered the atmosphere yesterday and probably exploded.
"But whether that had anything to do with it, who knows?"
Miss Haigh said she "definitely" wanted to find out more about the object she picked up from her paddock.
She said she would discuss things with her partner before making a final decision on whether to have it analysed further.
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