London: Rock hunters are stampeding to the site of the world’s biggest gold rush to find meteorites that are worth 20 times the value of the precious metal.
Thousands of prospectors, known as “meteor zombies”, are scouring the Californian desert in the hope of finding a tiny black nugget.
The rush was sparked after a 70-ton meteor plunged through the atmosphere, creating a deafening sonic boom as it crashed to Earth.
It was heard from Sacramento to Las Vegas and released energy equal to one-third the explosive power of an atomic bomb.
The meteor dates back to the start of the solar system five billion years ago. Fragments contain a very rare rock called CM chondrite.
Collectors are now paying up to 600-pound a gram, 20 times the price of gold.
Most of the meteorites found till date are tiny, with the largest weighing 19g — the same as an AA battery.
Incredibly, the meteorites fell in the same hills where the famous Californian gold rush of 1848 took place.
“People used to pull gold out of the ground. Now, things fall out of the sky. Lucky place, I guess,” the Sun quoted NASA researcher Scott Sandford as saying.