The University of Arizona

Authenticating the recovery location of meteorites: The case of Castenaso



This forensic work aims to authenticate the recovery location of Castenaso, a 120 g ordinary chondritic (L5) meteorite reportedly found in 2003 along the sandy bank of the Idice Stream, near the village of Castenaso (Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy). Using the hypothesis that Castenaso was instead a hot-desert meteorite, we conducted a comparative mineralogical and geochemical study of major weathering effects on European and Saharan ordinary chondrites as potential markers of the environment where Castenaso resided during its terrestrial lifetime. Inductively coupled plasmamass spectrometry (ICP-MS) data reveals that Castenaso is significantly enriched in Sr, Ba, Tl, and U, and suggests geochemical alteration in a hot-desert environment. The alteration is minor: Castenaso is not coated by desert varnish and does not show significant light rare earth element (LREE) enrichment or loss of Ni and Co. The apparent contrast in size, morphology, and composition between the soil particles filling the external fractures of Castenaso and those from the bank of the Idice Stream observed under the scanning electron microscope (SEM) suggests that Castenaso did not reside at the reported find location. Abraded quartz grains (up to 1 mm in size) in Castenaso are undoubtedly from a hot-desert eolian environment: they are well-rounded and show external surfaces characterized by the presence of dish-shaped concavities and upturned silica plates that have been subject to solution-precipitation and subsequent smoothing. We therefore conclude that Castenaso is one of the many hot-desert ordinary chondrite finds, probably from the Sahara, that is currently available on the market. This forensic work provides the scientific grounds for changing the name of this meteorite.


Geochemistry;origin authentication;hot-desert meteorites;Weathering

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