Friday, October 7, 2011

An Egg from Space, or Something More Earthly?

Alien Egg, © Jonathan Dalar

There it is, folks.  In all its raw glory.  But what the hell is it?

I found it in my youth, circa 1980-1982.  It was lying on the surface of the ground in the middle of a wheat field in the heart of Eastern Washington's Palouse country.  It hadn't been unearthed.  It had no signs of being previously buried.  It was just sitting there on top of the dirt, so I took it home to find out what it was.

Wheat Fields in the Palouse, © Nikky Stephen

It's more or less egg-shaped, and consistent in material all around.  At five and a half inches long at its longest dimension, it tips the scales at somewhere over nine pounds.  The more interesting part is it's at least partially iron.  I'm guessing it's between 10% and 30% ferrous, which appears to vary some, depending on where you measure it.  It responds slightly to magnets, more so in certain areas of the surface than others.

Alien Egg, © Jonathan Dalar

I've dragged it around with me over the years, and have had a few interesting conversations over it.  A few folks thought it was a thunder egg, or geode.  At least initially.  They do until I point out the surface looks nothing like any geodes I've ever seen, and it does not feel hollow in the least.  It's too heavy.  It feels more like iron than a hollow stone.  One does not get the impression there are crystals on the inside, should it be cracked open.

Thunder Egg, © Joel Davis-Aldridge

The other thing often mentioned is a meteorite.  In spite of their relative rarity, it's easier to believe than a geode.  It's at least partially ferrous, which is a trait it holds in common with meteorites.  I haven't measured the exact percentage of iron it has, but the 10% to 30% common in meteorites isn't too far off.  You can feel the definite pull toward a magnet when you hold one to it, but it's weak enough they don't cling.

Meteorite, © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

It does not have any indication of rust, however, which is a trait commonly found in meteors.  After years of storage in various garages and back storage rooms, it would have certainly rusted by now if it's ever going to. In spite of the iron content it has, I doubt it ever will.

Holsinger Meteorite, © Samuel Hansen

It also does not have any true indication of pitting or thumbprints, also common in meteorites.  The surface is rough, and covered with small, shiny crystal faces.  They're flat and smooth, similar to those found with pyrite, or fool's gold.

Alien Egg, © Jonathan Dalar

It does, however share color and overall appearance with some types of meteorites, which makes the discussion a little more interesting.  The shape is also interesting.  While round rocks are not uncommon in nature, most have been shaped by water.  There is no evidence of such exposure to water with this rock.  It would be nice to find that it came from beyond our world.

2009 Leonid Meteor © Ed Sweeney

I'm still not sure what it is, and I'm not completely sold on any of the theories I've come up with over the years I've had it.  It's intriguing, if only for its feel and appearance.  It's probably just my overactive imagination, hard at work as usual, but there seems to be more to it than just a rock.  I'd like to think it's an alien egg, and that someday some sort of strange creature will emerge from it.  I'd like to think it's a chunk of some rare and distant metallic planet that somehow found its way to the fields behind my childhood backyard.  Maybe even from the same place as previous visitors to earth came from.

Easter Island © Stéphane Guisard

I haven't found out for sure what it is, primarily because of these fantasies.  Not knowing exactly what it is, however mundane that might be, keeps those wild and fanciful theories in the mix, even when I know they're not serious possibilities.

Someday my son and I will take it down to the University of Washington geology department, and see if we can't get someone there to take a look at it.  Someday we'll have a definitive answer.  We'll know exactly what it is and where it came from.  With that we'll rule out aliens, and probably even junk from outer space.  Until then, it's fun to think about the possibilities.


  1. This reminds me of my youth in Southern California. I was a Cub and Boy Scout, then lived on a ranch for four years. We used to go camping in the mountains surrounding Los Angeles and spent a lot of time in the Mojave Desert.
    My favorite pastime was rockhounding - and I remember all the neat stuff I found. My favorite was an absolutely gorgeous geode. We had a rock saw and polisher and it was always great fun to cut rocks open to see what was inside.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. I spent a lot of summers in the mountains of Montana hunting rocks and fossils myself. This is still one of the most unusual finds I have had.