Doctors act to keep hold of meteor
An out-of-this world rock has become the centre of a down-to-earth dispute about who its rightful owner should be.
The tennis ball-sized meteorite came through the roof of a medical office in Virginia just after dusk on January 18, the same time people reported seeing a fireball in the sky.
Dr Marc Gallini and fellow practitioner Dr Frank Ciampi said the Smithsonian Institution had offered $5,000 (£3,100) for it but it was sent to the National Museum of Natural History for safekeeping.
The doctors believe their long-time landlords plan to stake their own claim to the space rock; the collectors' market for meteorites can be lucrative.
Gallini, who has run his family practice in Lorton, Virginia, since 1978, said he notified property owner Erol Mutlu of plans to hand the meteorite over to the Smithsonian, which holds the world's largest museum collection of meteorites. Gallini says he got Mutlu's permission.
Later in the week however Mutlu sent the doctors an e-mail saying that his brother and fellow landlord Deniz Mutlu was going to the Smithsonian to retrieve the rock, Gallini said.
Apparently if a meteorite becomes part of the land where it arrives it becomes the property of the landowner.
The doctors hired a lawyer and have demanded that the Smithsonian does not release the meteorite until the ownership question is resolved. The lawyer plans to ask a court to rule.
"We really want this to end up in the right place," Gallini said.
The doctors plan to donate the money from the Smithsonian to Haiti earthquake relief, he said.