The Georgetown (Iron) Meteorite

The story of the largest piece of Georgetown (iron) meteorite ever found

By Geoscience Australia

Have you ever been lucky enough to see a shooting star?
What you are actually looking at is a meteor or space rock 'burning up' as it enters the Earth's atmosphere. Usually meteors vaporise upon entry, but if they are big enough they survive the journey and hit the Earth's surface. This is when they become known as meteorites.

Ast Star Meteor (1066)LIFE Photo Collection

Typical Georgetown area countryGeoscience Australia

Discovering the Georgetown (iron) meteorite

When two friends Paul McRae and John Miller were fossicking for gold in July 2016 near the Georgetown area of Queensland, Australia, they got more than they bargained for... 

After several days prospecting with metal detectors, the men were excited to receive a strong signal.

Fun times metal detectingGeoscience Australia

Unsure as to whether it would be a gold nugget or a rusty old horseshoe they began to dig.

Digging for the meteorite!Geoscience Australia

After substantial digging they were initially disappointed to discover what seemed to be just an ordinary rock. They contemplated discarding it but couldn't shake the feeling it might in fact be something 'out of this world'!

Georgetown (iron) meteorite (2016)Geoscience Australia

When the detector went off what did you think? (2021-03-17)Geoscience Australia

What they had in fact found was the largest piece of the Georgetown (iron) meteorite ever discovered.

Georgetown (iron) meteorite (2021)Geoscience Australia

Weighing in at 24.3kg and belonging to the Iron IAB-ungrouped complex, it is mainly composed of iron and nickel.

Georgetown (iron) meteorite (2021)Geoscience Australia

It is one of only six officially confirmed, named, and classified examples of this rare type of meteorite in the world.

Four of the six pieces were discovered in Antarctica, and the fifth piece is held in the USA, making this the only known Australian find of its kind.

Georgetown (iron) meteorite display at Geoscience Australia (2022-03-17)Geoscience Australia

A significant portion of this specimen is made up of a brittle, bronzy iron sulfide mineral called troilite.

Encased in the troilite is a silvery metal which formed 'branch-like' or dendritic crystals. This unique patterning is so rare that it makes this type of meteorite easily distinguishable.

The texture suggests that the metals separated and rapidly cooled following an impact event in space 4.5 billion years ago.

A close-up of the cut face from the Georgetown (iron) meteorite (2021)Geoscience Australia

When Paul and John were unsure what to do with their un-identified treasure, they visited Geoscience Australia for some expert advice.

Paul McCrae holding the 'beast'Geoscience Australia

Upon close inspection, Geoscience Australia curator Steven Petkovski identified that it was in fact an incredibly large and spectacularly rare example of an iron-nickel meteorite.

Georgetown (iron) meteorite (2021)Geoscience Australia

The Geoscience Australia BuildingGeoscience Australia

A home at Geoscience Australia

Thanks to support from the Australian Government through the National Cultural Heritage Account, the meteorite has now found its home at Geoscience Australia.

Why did you bring the meteorite to Geoscience Australia? (2021-03-17)Geoscience Australia

Here it will educate and inspire new generations of Australians who visit the National Mineral & Fossil Collection. It will also be available for scientific researchers to further the knowledge we have about the formation and history of our solar system.

Geoscience Australia's public displaysGeoscience Australia

Studying these types of meteorites improves our understanding of how planets like Earth formed from collisions and mergers between smaller bodies in the earliest days of the solar system.

The meteorite arrives at the museumGeoscience Australia

What are your hopes for the meteorite now that it's at Geoscience Australia? (2021-03-17)Geoscience Australia

So what can you do if you suspect you've found a meteorite?

Georgetown (iron) meteorite offcut (2021)Geoscience Australia

There are a number of resources available online including this meteorite self-check list.

Meteorite Self-Check List (2020-08-28) by Geoscience AustraliaGeoscience Australia

Inspired? Keep exploring....
This is just one of the many unique specimens and tales you can discover within our Geoscience Australia collection on Google Arts & Culture.

Credits: Story

The National Mineral and Fossil Collection, Geoscience Australia, Canberra.


We wish to acknowledge the Australian Government through the National Cultural Heritage Account who supported the purchase of the Georgetown (iron) meteorite.


We also thank the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications for supply of their imagery and promotion of the acquisition; the finders of the meteorite Paul McCrae, John Miller and their families for images supplied and used in the exhibition; and lastly Errol Fries for the museum specimen photography.


Exhibit Creators: Steven Petkovski and Josie Dunham.


Exhibit published 17 March 2021.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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