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Rare iron meteorite sparks legal and scientific debate in Sweden

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NEW DELHI: An iron rock from space made a dramatic entrance into a dense pine forest near Stockholm four years ago, captivating the region with its rare trajectory captured on multiple cameras. This event sparked a legal battle over the ownership of the extraterrestrial object.
After a prolonged court case, the landowner emerged victorious, reclaiming the meteorite from the two individuals who initially discovered it.Geologist Anders Zetterqvist and his colleague Andreas Forsberg stumbled upon the 30-pound meteorite, describing it as a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
This iron meteorite, one of few fresh-fall iron meteorites worldwide, holds significant scientific and collector’s value. The meteorite is currently housed at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, safeguarded from potential looters. The legal dispute over ownership highlighted the absence of specific laws regarding meteorites in Sweden, contrasting with regulations in other countries.
In a recent ruling, the appeals court favored the landowner, citing the lack of legal clarity on meteorite ownership. The decision raised questions on the classification of meteorites as movable or immovable property, underlining the unique legal complexities surrounding such cases.
The ruling also invoked the Swedish customary law ‘Allemansrätten,’ granting public access to nature, which played a pivotal role in the judgment. The geologists, disappointed by the outcome, are contemplating further legal action.
The landowner, while asserting his ownership rights, expressed willingness to donate the meteorite to a Swedish museum for public benefit.
The verdict resonated with the intricate balance between property rights and public access to natural treasures, sparking debates on the interpretation of customary laws in modern contexts. This remarkable saga of the meteorite’s journey and the ensuing legal battle underscores the fascination and challenges presented by rare celestial occurrences on Earth.

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