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The Beautiful Fukang Meteorite
By Kaushik Tuesday, May 21, 2013 Nature, Science 3 comments
The Fukang meteorite, believed to be some 4.5 billion years old, which is as ancient as Earth itself, was unearthed near a town of the same name in China, in 2000. It is a pallasite, a type of meteorite with translucent golden crystals of a mineral called olivine embedded in a silvery honeycomb of nickel-iron. It’s a gorgeous meteorite, and possibly the most stunning extraterrestrial piece of rock man has ever seen.
The Fukang meteorite was found by a hiker. The man had often stopped and had lunch on this giant rock, and he always wondered what the metal and crystals were. He finally took a hammer and chisel and broke some pieces off, which he sent to the USA to confirm that it was a meteorite.
The original meteorite weighted just over a thousand kilogram, but the rock was so brilliant that everybody wanted a piece of it. Since then it has been divided into dozens of thin slices and auctioned or distributed around the world.
A total of thirty-one kilograms of specimen is on deposit at University of Arizona. Marvin Kilgore of the University of Arizona's Southwest Meteorite Centre holds the largest portion weighing at 420 Kg. In 2008, this piece was expected to fetch $2 million at an auction at Bonham's in New York, but unfortunately, the prospective bidders were more impressed with a couple of pieces of 130-million-year-old fossilized dinosaur’s dung that day, which sold at more than twice the estimate.
According to Bonhams, pallasites are composed of approximately 50 per cent olivine and peridot crystals and 50 cent nickel-iron, and thought to be the relics of forming planets. They apparently make up less than one per cent of meteorites. They are believed to originate from deep inside intact meteors created during the formation of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago and very few specimens are thought to have survived their descent through Earth's atmosphere.
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