50 year anniversary of the Murchison Meteorite Fall

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 14:34 -- pheck

This September we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the fall of the Murchison meteorite, one of the most important meteorites to science. Since its fall near Murchison, Victoria in September 1969, the Murchison meteorite has been the source of numerous spectacular discoveries. Thanks to the large amount recovered, about 100 kg comprising of a large number of specimens, and its availability to the scientific community, the Murchison meteorite is one of the most studied meteorites of the type carbonaceous chondrite. The scientific community is grateful to the meteorite finders in Murchison to have made available the vast majority of the mass to science. The main fraction of Murchison was acquired by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and since has been curated there another large fraction is at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
Some of the most important discoveries made by studying Murchison in the last 50 years includes the discovery of presolar stardust grains, solid samples of our parent stars more than 4.6 billion years old, which gave rise to presolar grains research, a new interdisciplinary subdiscipline within cosmochemistry and astrophysics. Other remarkable findings include the detection of a large variety of extraterrestrial organic matter incl. sugars, amino acids and urea, and the results obtained from studying refractory inclusions, which are among the first solids that formed in the solar system and are essentially time capsules from that time period. Murchison also served as an analog sample for the carbonaceous asteroid Bennu to test instruments of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-Rex is scheduled to return to Earth with a sample of Bennu in 2023. The knowledge gained by studying Murchison significantly advanced our scientific understanding of the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
The town of Murchison will hold an Anniversary Symposium on the anniversary weekend. Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator Philipp R. Heck will speak there and will also give a public talk about the Murchison meteorite at the University of Melbourne. See this short video about Murchison.