The Field Museum received a high-quality meteorite from a fireball that exploded over California and Nevada last month. The 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite, donated by private collector Terry Boudreaux, is extremely rare and valuable to science. It weighs about one-third of an ounce (10 grams) and has been tentatively classified as carbonaceous chondrite. The Field Museum’s curator of meteorites, Dr. Philipp R. Heck, will study the specimen at the Museum’s Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies.
Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites are dark in color because they are rich in extraterrestrial organic matter and contain the first minerals formed during the birth of the solar system. They also contain pre-solar stardust that formed outside our solar system. Mineralogical and chemical studies of this meteorite will provide a glimpse 4.6 billion years or more back in time.
On Sunday morning, April 22, 2012, an object roughly the size of a minivan entered Earth’s atmosphere and produced a spectacular daytime fireball that was seen over Nevada and California. It exploded between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, producing loud sonic booms. After the event, pieces of the meteorite were found on the ground totaling about 270 grams, to date.
Terry Boudreaux is a meteorite collector from the Chicago area and a member of The Field Museum’s Collections and Research Committee. His donation of a piece of this meteorite to the Museum will provide an opportunity for scientists to study a natural time capsule.