Records 1987

Meteorites Legislation

On 30 November 1987, Cabinet approved the introduction of the Meteorites Bill. The Meteorites Act 1987 makes provision for the protection of meteorites and tektites, including the regulation of the sale and export of meteorite samples from the Northern Territory (NT).  Meteorites and associated impact structures are of considerable value to science and tourism.

This legislation brings the NT law on meteorites in line with other States and ensures that an important part of our natural heritage is protected, and guarantees that sufficient material is available for continued research into the origin and evolution of our solar system. Penalties were imposed for the wilful damage, destroying, removal or possession of a meteorite.

A ‘meteorite’ means a solid object which has fallen to the Earth’s surface from space without being completely vaporized during its passage through the atmosphere. Meteorites frequently break up in flight with fragments. The fragments are considered to be part of the same meteorite and are named accordingly. They are very rare objects. In 1987, only about 2800 authentic meteorites had been found over the whole planet, of which 11 were found in the NT. The majority are found by members of the public who bring their finds to the attention of the scientific community.

Although the frequency of NT meteorites is low, there are unusual and important meteorites from the NT:

  • Arltunga and Tavallah Valley meteorites belong to two rare groups of iron meteorites.
  • Huckitta meteorite belongs to the relatively rare polossite type and is the largest known meteorite of this type.
  • Henbury and Boxhole hypervelocity impact craters are some of the few with associated meteorites, and Henbury craters are an important tourist attraction.
  • Gosse’s Bluff is a spectacular erosional remnant of an ancient meteorite impact and is also a tourist destination.

A checklist of NT meteorites found up until 1987 is included in this Cabinet record. The low frequency of finds in the NT and the relatively undeveloped nature of the NT indicate many more meteorites remain to be found.

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Last updated: 14 April 2021

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