Nov/Dec 2001 Table of Contents
slice of an iron meteorite found near Gibeon, Namibia. Note
the beautiful cross-hatched Widmanstatten pattern.
Coutesy of Jim Phillips.
meteorites will help you better understand the birth of our solar
system, and youll get some beautiful rock specimens to boot.
by Jim Phillips
enthusiasts often look up to the sky for beauty and inspiration.
But theres another rewarding aspect of astronomy thats
a bit closer to home: meteorite collecting. When you hold a meteorite
in your hand, you are touching a chunk of an asteroid, moon, planet,
or comet. Imagine the thrill of owning a rock that spent billions
of years in outer space, and that dates back to the very birth of
our solar system. Holding a meteorite gives me an indescribable
sensation of being in touch with a greater reality, reinforcing
my deep connection with the cosmos.
come in a bewildering variety of sizes, shapes, textures, and colors.
But all of them share a common story. They originate from larger
parent bodies that were shattered or disrupted by violent impacts.
The shards from these violent impacts orbited the Sun for thousands,
millions, or even billions of years before that fateful moment when
their orbital trajectories intercepted that of Earth.
meteorites doesnt have to be expensive. While you might spend
up to $1,000 to put together a collection with examples of each
of the major categories, you dont have to start out that way.
In fact, beginning your collection with a single meteorite is the
best first step. Then you can decide how or if to proceed. Meteorites
are usually sold by the gram. A nickel-sized meteorite weighs about
5 grams, while a walnut-sized sample weighs 60 to 80 grams. If you
want a fist-sized meteorite, look for a 600- to 800-gram sample
depending on the type.