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‘Meteorite rush’ boom in Yunnan after asteroid hit

(People's Daily Online)    15:52, October 12, 2017

A week after an asteroid hit Yunnan, the tranquil county of Shangri-La has already witnessed a “meteorite rush” amid the rocketing price of so-called meteorites on China’s e-commerce site Taobao.

The asteroid crashed about 40 kilometers to the northwest of Shangri-la County on the evening of October 4. It fell at a speed of 14.6 kilometers per second and exploded about 37 kilometers above the ground. It remains unclear whether the meteorite hit ground.

(A fireball meteor is seen over southwest China's Yunnan Province on October 4, 2017. File Photo/Weibo.com)

Several villages and townships near the suspected landing site immediately began searching for it for scientific research, but some were way more excited than ordinary villagers poking around in the woods.

With drones, telescopes, and other detection gadgets, people from provincial regions like Sichuan, Beijing, Shanghai, and Liaoning scribbled down their calculated trail of the meteorite and fumbled through villages on hunt for the meteorite. Usually a group of five to eight people would follow one lead, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

(Photo/China Youth Daily)

“Some also travel alone. There are also some foreigners. Not many locals are eager to search for it. Most come from other regions in China, but different groups do not work together. We must keep a low profile. Some may even take it from you,” a man who identified himself as Xiao Jiang told the newspaper.

According to Xiao Jiang, the search in the woods could be risky and people need to take precautions against insects and wild animals like snakes.

Xiao Jiang said his team has searched for the meteorite for a week, which has so far been in vain. “The bumpy mountain roads and the wild grass often block our way. We are only fumbling around. Nobody knows where the meteorite is. It’s all about luck,” he said.

Apart from fans and scientists, meteorite hunters were also in haste, as their hard work in forest or desert could usually mean good profit. A real meteorite can be priced at several thousand yuan per gram.

Jiang Wei, a deputy director on meteorite studies with China Association for Scientific Expedition, said his team will post a bounty of 10,000 yuan per gram to collect the meteorite from whoever finds it first, hoping it can be sent for research as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Taobao shops already saw some meteorite sales last week. Priced between 10 to 20,000 yuan per gram, the meteorites on sale all allegedly came from Shangri-La. But they have not been confirmed as being from Shangri-La.

On Tuesday, police in Yunnan launched an investigation into the online meteorite shops, which have since been removed from e-commerce platforms including Taobao, Beijing Youth Daily reported. 

(A Taobao shop sells meteorite allegedly from Shangri-la on October 6.)

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Shan Xin, Bianji)

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