Meteorite ownership battle in Sweden

Meteorite ownership battle in Sweden

STOCKHOLM: Temporary home to iron meteorite that fell in November 2020 Photo credit: CC/Gumisza

A meteorite fell to earth on private property in Uppland province on Sweden’s east coast at 10pm on November 7 2020.

But does it belong to the person who found it?  Or the owner of the land where it fell to earth?

Geologists Anders Zetterqvist and Andreas Forsberg believed it was theirs, but the landowner Johan Benzelstierna von Engestrom claimed it was his.

Days after the meteorite fell over Sweden, Zetterqvist located the area where it hit the ground and after weeks of searching, another geologist, his friend Andreas Forsberg, found the 14-kilo lump of iron. It was nestled in moss where it had rebounded after landing some 70 metres away.

“It was the find of a lifetime for me,” Forsberg told the New York Times. “It was so spectacular. And to know that it was just a couple of weeks old.”

It was the 10th fresh-fall meteorite found in Sweden, and one of just a few iron meteorites found worldwide, the geologist said.

Fosberg and Zetterqvist took the meteorite to the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, where it has remained since 2020.

“It’s a textbook example of an iron meteorite,” Dr Dan Holtstam from the museum’s Geosciences department explained to the media.

“It was the first time I laid my hands on a newly-fallen meteorite after almost 40 years in geoscience.”

Meanwhile, Johan Benzelstierna von Engestrom wrote to the museum, claiming that it was his.

The claim reached court and an initial ruling found in favour of the geologists as the meteorite “was movable property without an owner.”

An appeals court has now reversed the decision, maintaining that the iron meteorite was composed of substances already present on the Earth’s surface.

“Meteorites or space rocks should be considered part of immovable property just like other stone,” Judge Robert Green stated.

Talking to the Swedish media, Benzelstierna von Engestrom, welcomed the ruling. “I want to retain ownership of it but give it to a Swedish museum on permanent loan,” he declared.

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at