Even the smallest fragments from space tell a big story.
The mysteries of space often leave us with more questions than answers, but meteorites can actually tell us a lot about the history of our solar system. The pieces exhibited represent some of the most interesting and beautiful specimens from the Field Museum's Robert A. Pritzker Center.
This exhibition, located in the Grainger Gallery on the upper level, offers fascinating insight into where these objects came from and what they’re made of. Meteorites can contain minerals that are older than the sun and the planets, and they help to give us an idea of Earth's geological makeup when it first formed.
The "stars" of the exhibit are four fossil meteorites. Fossil meteorites are extremely rare to find and out of ~70,000 meteorites known to science only ~100 are fossil meteorites. The Field Museum is only one of a few museums wordwide to exhibit fossil meteorites.
This selection of meteorites is a small sampling from our vast collection, which scientists continue to study behind the scenes in the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies.
Several of the specimens on display were loaned or donated by private collector Terry Boudreaux. For over a decade, Terry Boudreaux has continuously provided The Field with loans and donations of precious and fresh meteorites for research and exhibit. The fossil meteorite specimens were loaned by private collector Mario Tassinari from Sweden.
These meteorites have a fascinating story! Back in 1952, the manager of a limestone quarry in Sweden that was once an ancient sea floor noticed an unusually dark object in a slab that one of his workers had cut and set aside. He approached a paleontologist about it, who set it on a shelf in his office and forgot about it. 27 years later, a mineralogist who was interested in meteorites walked into that very same office, and exclaimed, “That looks like a meteorite!”
The discovery of this meteorite nearly three decades after it was removed from the quarry led to a systematic search for more—in fact, workers were trained to recognize them. Over the next 20 years, 101 fossilized meteorites were uncovered in the quarry, which is 100 times more than we would expect. Philipp Heck, Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies at The Field Museum, tells us why.
The exhibition also includes a fragment of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteorite, which landed in Russia in a flash of brilliant light and instantly went viral online. The specimens are loans and donations from Terry Boudreaux.
rare Green meteorites
Only very few meteorite are green. These are ungrouped meteorites that came from asteroids we didn’t even know existed until a few years ago. “Ungrouped” means that these meteorites don’t fit the classification of any previously documented meteorites—in other words, that they’re from small planets that scientists haven’t sampled before. That’s what makes an ungrouped meteorite an exciting find: it’s a window into a part of our solar system that remains to be explored. The hope is that one day, we’ll have enough samples of this new type that we’ll be able to identify a new group of meteorites. In addition, the two meteorites that we have appear green, which is very unusual. Most meteorites have a thin black outer fusion crust, and inside, they are either light or dark gray, or black.
Martian Meteorite Tissint
Meet Tissint, a Martian meteorite that was seen falling through the atmosphere before in landed Morocco. This is only the fifth Martian meteorite that has been observed. Learn more about the volcanic rock Tissint in our exhibit or read more here.
A Meteorite on Mars
Just as meteorites fall to Earth, they also land on other planets. Thanks to 3D photographs taken by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, we’re able to get a close-up, detailed look at an iron meteorite spotted on Mars. A full-size replica of this Mars meteorite was created using imagery and data gathered by the Opportunity. Found in 2009, the real meteorite is still on Mars.
Use our interactive display to examine four extraordinary meteorites in 3D like a scientist. The reconstructions are based on X-ray tomography data (micro-CT) of Chelyabinsk, the carbonaceous chondrite Allende, the Martian meteorite Northwest Africa 11115, and the fossil meteorite Botten 005.