If I pick up a meteorite, is it mine?

A Frenchwoman has found a meteorite, from the asteroid 2023 CX1, in Seine-Maritime. Could she claim ownership? Who is the owner of a meteorite: its discoverer, the State?

This had not happened since 2011: a meteorite was picked up in France on February 15, 2023. It is the fragment of a bright asteroid, 2023 CX1, which fell above the country on the night of February 12 to 13. FEBRUARY. The precious extraterrestrial rock was spotted by an 18-year-old French girl, Loïs Leblanc. Did this student then become the owner of this meteorite?

When you find a meteorite, you have to follow some advice. We can also spontaneously say to ourselves that, since we have found it, it belongs to us. However, it is not that simple. Currently, there is no law on this subject in France. The question was notably posed in September 2018, by the Republican deputy Stéphane Viry, to the attention of the Ministry of Higher Education. ” In a context where the State supports research and participatory science projects on this subject, it seems essential to clarify the question of the ownership of the meteorites found “, then estimated the deputy.

The meteorite, a “product fallen from the sky, a good without a master”

He added that, in the absence of a clear law, the judge often finds himself having to decide, and that he can decide that the meteorite coming from the sky, it is indeed its discoverer who becomes its owner. In 2014, a court had thus statue that a meteorite discovered in a forest belonged to the person who found it, and not to the State, because the meteorite is a ” product fallen from the sky, a good without a master “. This raises the question of scientists’ access to this object. ” Research is totally losing since it does not have the possibility of exploiting the data that the meteorite can provide », Argued Stéphane Viry.

The member proposed to create a ” right of use » or « shared ownership » meteorites, allowing the scientific community to claim access to them – without necessarily depriving the person who discovered the meteorite of this property either.

Martian meteorites. // Source: Flickr/CC/Maia C

An answer was given to him in May 2019. The ministry was in favor of a law allowing scientists to access all the meteorites discovered. ” But on condition that it is really effective, that is to say at least at European level, and that it explicitly includes the case of meteorites in Antarctica. »

The subject has therefore not really been settled, because the ministry has indicated that it prefers that the initiative for such a law should come from an international scientific organization. For example, the International Astronomical Union, or the Meteoretical Society. Pending such a project, and since France does not legislate on its side, a vagueness thus persists on the ownership of meteorites.

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