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Lot
41240

THE RAREST OF ALL METEORITES FROM MARS - A CHASSIGNITE. ...

2009 January Signature Natural History Auction #6012

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Auction Ended On: Jan 18, 2009
Item Activity: 2 Internet/mail/phone bidders Number of Bidders
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Location:

Heritage Auctions
3500 Maple Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219

Description:
THE RAREST OF ALL METEORITES FROM MARS - A CHASSIGNITE
NWA 2737
Martian Dunite
North West Africa, Morocco


Most Martian meteorites found on Earth are believed to have been blasted into space during a single event which occurred 175 million years ago - a gigantic meteoroid or asteroid impact so huge that some of the rock ejected by the monstrous nuclear-strength blast reached escape velocity (11,178 miles per hour near the surface) and left the Martian orbit. The ejected rock fragments, called meteoroids, would follow long elliptical orbits around the Sun with a few intersecting the Earth's orbit. Even fewer of these would approach close enough to be captured by the Earth's gravitational field and, finally, after a journey of 100 million miles, and likely much more, fall into decaying orbits so that they would eventually spiral down the gravity well and smash into the surface of our planet. There are only 50 known Martian meteorites, so they are roughly equal in rarity to lunar meteorites with only a few kilograms of difference between the total known weights of both types. Like lunar material, Martian meteorites are millions of times rarer than gem grade diamonds. Out of all of these Martian meteorites, there are only two Chassignites: Chassigny, the namesake of the class, and NWA 2737, the specimen offered here. The Chassignites are dunites, which are primarily composed of very iron rich olivine, which can come in a gem form called peridot, and are believed to have formed very deep in the Martian crust in giant magma chambers when Mars was still volcanically active some 1.36 billion years ago. The reason that they are so rare is that they sample very deep layers of the Martian crust and possibly even the mantle. The asteroid impact that caused the ejection of all Martian meteorites was large enough to excavate deeply into the Martian surface but, the deeper the rock, the greater the escape velocity - so only a very few percent of the source rock would have come from these deepest layers, the majority coming from surface rocks. Scientists have been so intrigued by this exceptionally rare meteorite that more than 22 scientific papers have been published so far on this very important find! NWA 2737 has a dark, granular greenish-black texture with the predominant olivine appearing to be almost black. Normally olivine would have an emerald green color with transparency or translucency as shown in the pallasite slices offered in these same pages, but the olivine in NWA 2737 was so heavily shocked during the impact event and ejection from the Martian surface, that it is almost opaque - thus, the black color. NWA 2737 has the added distinction of containing a new type of mineral that had never been seen before. This specimen is an exceptionally large sample from this extremely rare meteorite - no American museum or scientific institution has anything even half this size in their collection. Measures 45 x 34 x 2 mm (1.75 x 1.3 inches) and weighs 9.46 grams. A truly matchless museum quality specimen!

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