For assistance identifying meteorites:

Meteorite Example

Meteorites that have fallen recently may have a black "ash-like" crust on their surface, like what is shown in the image above. This is because when a meteorite falls through the Earth's atmosphere a very thin layer on the outer surface melts. It is often black and looks like an eggshell coating the rock. However, this crust weathers to a rusty brown color after several years of exposure on the Earth's surface and will eventually disappear altogether. (Information from

 Mineral ID Chart

Above image courtesy of:


Additional online resources for visual investigation of meteorites:

For assistance identifying minerals:

The physical properties of minerals (color, hardness, density, etc.) are used to help determine the identity of a specimen. Many of these tests can be performed easily in the field or at home, while others require laboratory equipment. The list of simple tests in a suggested order, progressing from simple experimentation and observation to more complicated either in procedure or concept, can be found here:

Butte, Montana is home to a beautiful mineral museum (, which is free to the public (donation encouraged), and is run by a knowledgeable staff who are glad to help with mineral identification. For more information, email John Foley ([email protected]).


kyanite in a quartz-rich rock
Above: Beautiful blue crystals of Kyanite in a quartz-rich rock (Archean), Spanish Peaks, Montana


sillimanite knubsAbove: Sillimanite "knubs" in high-grade metamorphic rocks, Everest region, Khumbu Himalaya

For assistance identifying fossils: