If you want to find a meteorite in northeastern South Dakota, it's actually pretty easy: Just check your rain gutters or climb onto your roof.
Unless you want a meteorite that isn't microscopic. If that's the case, you'll need some time, luck or money.
Meteorites are technically just about everywhere because microscopic meteorite particles can be found atop most roofs and in rain gutters, said Thomas Durkin, deputy director of the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.
And they aren't as big as the one over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15 that injured thousands.
The vast majority of meteoroids burn up in the earth's atmosphere, but many particles still descend to the Earth's surface, Durkin said.
"Thousands of tons of micro meteorites accumulate on the earth's surface every day," he said.
However, larger meteorites are much rarer and more difficult to find, he said.
A freshly fallen meteorite will be black or dark brown and somewhat shiny due to the heating of its exterior when entering the atmosphere, although the external crust erodes over time as the meteorite sits on the ground, making it brownish in color, wrote Judy Vondruska, a professor and astronomy/physics lecturer at South Dakota State University in Brookings, by email.
Most meteorites have a smooth surface, and some have indentations that look like thumb-size streaks as a result of the meteor melting as it enters the atmosphere, Vondruska said.
Micro meteorites are everywhere, but they must be separated from the dirt and debris that also collects there, Vondruska said.
Collections of micro meteorites appear similar to the larger-sized meteorites when viewed through a microscope, she said.
Larger meteorite fragments are evenly distributed throughout the planet, but are much easier to find in areas with a flat surface and light-colored rocks, Durkin said.
"A large black rock in the Great Plains, Antarctica or a desert is pretty noticeable," he said. "But it won't stand out in, say, the Rocky Mountains."
Deserts and Antarctica are the easiest place to spot them because of the contrast of black rocks on sand or ice, Vondruska said. Although the Great Plains are flat, the grasses and dark soils make it more challenging to see meteorites, she said.
There are three basic types of meteorites: iron, stony-iron and stony, she said. Iron and stony-iron meteorites tend to be magnetic and can be found with metal detectors, Vondruska said. She added that some Earth rocks contain magnetic iron compounds that can make identifying meteorites challenging.
It is often difficult to distinguish a meteorite from a rock formed on the earth, Vondruska, said. Sometimes the only definitive method is laboratory testing, she said.
Earth rocks tend to have less nickel-iron content than meteorites, Durkin said. If someone finds a metallic stone that has a nickel content above 5 percent, it's almost definitely a meteorite, he said.
Occasionally, when a meteoroid enters the atmosphere and becomes a meteor, it can have a much greater impact, Vondruska said.
The resulting air blast from the meteor over Chelyabinsk last month destroyed thousands of windows and other glass objects, which caused most of the injuries. Durkin said that meteor was traveling at 33,000 mph.
Numerous meteorites were deposited across central Russia, drawing many meteorite hunters, Durkin said.