Magnetic Attraction

If you have a rock that does not attract a magnet, then almost certainly it is not a meteorite

Meteorites are not magnets – they do not attract paper clips or pins. Most (>95%) meteorites (chondrites, iron meteorites), however, do attract a magnet because they contain a lot of iron-nickel metal.

If you have a rock that does not attract a magnet, then almost certainly it is not a meteorite. Some of the rarest kinds of meteorites (achondrites, lunar meteorites, martian meteorites), however, do not attract magnets because they contain little or no metal. Most terrestrial (Earth) rocks also do not attract magnets for the same reason. 

If you have a rock that does attract a magnet, then it is also probably not a meteorite because the mineral magnetite is common in Earth rocks. Cut or break the rock open. If it has metal flecks or veins like in these ordinary chondrites, then it might be a meteorite, but more likely it is just industrial slag, which often contain metal blebs.

This rock is probably a mixture of the minerals hematite (reddish) and magnetite. Both are iron oxides.

Do not use a use a neodymium (rare-earth) magnet. Those things are so strong that they will attract many kinds of terrestrial rocks. An ordinary chondrite or iron meteorite will respond to an inexpensive ceramic magnet. In the U.S. we often call these “refrigerator magnets.”


If you have a piece of metal that does not strongly attract a magnet, then it is definitely not a meteorite.

If you have a piece of metal that does attract a magnet and want to know if it is an iron meteorite, obtain a chemical analysis for the elements iron (Fe), cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), chromium (Cr), and manganese (Mn). Iron meteorites will have 75-95% Fe, 5-25% Ni, 0.2- 2% Co, and <0.1 % (<1000 ppm) each Cr and Mn. A metallurgical lab can provide this analysis.

A good way to test if a rock is attracted to a magnet is with a circular ceramic magnet like those often used for “refrigerator magnets.” Put it on its edge on a flat, hard surface. If a rock attracts a magnetic, you can cause the magnet to roll by pulling the magnet with the rock.
Magnetite (Fe3O4) is a common Earth mineral. It readily attracts a cheap ceramic magnet. Because this rock is reddish, it probably also contains hematite (Fe2O3). Pure hematite does not attract a magnet.

I will say it again: Do not use neodymium rare-earth magnets. The rock above is not a meteorite, it is a rock from Earth that contains the mineral magnetite. It contains enough magnetite to attract rare earth magnets, but not enough to tightly hold a cheap ceramic magnet. Magnetite-rich rocks without hematite are often gray to blackish.