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    Description

    NWA 8159 Martian Meteorite
    Martian (augite basalt)
    Morocco
    Found: 2013







    We know that Northwest Africa (NWA) 8159 and the 234 other listed Martian meteorites journeyed here from Mars because of the robot Viking spacecraft that landed on the Red Planet in 1976. Six years after those landings, Drs. Johnson and Bogard were studying an unusual meteorite with a most unusual name - Elephant Moraine 79001, which had been found in Antarctica in 1979. Astonishingly, the two scientists discovered that tiny amounts of gas trapped within 79001 were a close match to the thin atmosphere of Mars, as recorded by the Viking landers. This experiment has been confirmed by looking at gaseous inclusions from several other Martian meteorites, clearly indicating their origin point. What a fiery and furious life NWA 8159 and its "cousins" have led! Blasted off the surface of their home planet by other meteorite impacts (the impactors likely being large asteroid fragments), they wandered in space until encountering our planet. They were super-heated in our atmosphere - as meteors or shooting stars - before falling to Earth and later being discovered, then identified and classified.

    At the present time, there are 61,316 different meteorites listed in the Meteoritical Bulletin. That number represents the total of all meteorites officially recognized by academia in the history of the science of meteoritics. Of these, a mere 235 are Martian meteorites, making them among the scarcest commodities that any human has ever owned or touched. Of the 235 known Martians, the vast majority belong to the SNC class, that being an acronym for three celebrated Martian meteorites: Shergotty (fell Bihar, India, 1865); Nakhla (fell Al Buhayrah, Egypt, 1911); Chassigny (fell Champagne-Ardenne, France, 1815). The rare Martian polymict breccias account for another 17 recognized Martians.

    The Meteoritical Bulletin lists two meteorites from Mars that exist all by themselves - literally in a class of their own. One is the OPX class, whose sole listed member is the puzzling Alan Hills 84001 meteorite, which after being discovered in Antarctica, caused a worldwide sensation when some researchers believed they had found signs of fossilized life within it. Examples of that meteorite are not available for sale. The other class, with a single intriguing member, is described as "Martian (augite-basalt)" in the Bulletin. The meteorite itself is NWA 8159, and only 149.4 grams are known to exist in the entire world.

    After the single NWA 8159 stone was found in Morocco, it was brought to the United States in 2013 and sent to the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque for classification. In its official write-up, NWA 8159 was described by the submitting scientist as "a fine grained olivine-bearing augite basalt that does not appear to be a SNC type although there are some aspects of it that resemble SNC." Its primary composition is ~48-50% augite, ~37-40 % plagioclase, with lesser amounts of olivine, magnetite, and orthpyroxene. Further analysis conducted during 2015 resulted in reports of "shock-melt veins of unique texture" and noted the presence of "high-pressure mineral phases including majoritic garnet, stishovite, coesite, tissinite, and ahrensite.

    While a small number of representative pieces of NWA 8159 were made available to academia and collectors, the mass has remained largely intact since its discovery. The few pieces that were released have been studied by academia and cherished by collectors, and were acquired at an extremely high dollar-per-gram rate, indicating the rarity of this meteorite and, indeed, this meteorite class. The rigorous and repeated studies conducted on NWA 8159 by various experts have determined without question that it is a piece of the Red Planet and, in addition, a very rare type indeed, which appears to be unlike most, or possibly all, other known Martian meteorites.

    Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer the MAIN MASS (largest known extant piece) of the Martian augite basalt meteorite, NWA 8159. An important and fascinating offering, it is a meteorite of such uniqueness and value that it is definitely to be considered a world-class specimen... on two different worlds!
    Overall Measurements: 1.97 x 1.30 x 1.14 inches (5.00 x 3.30 x 2.90 cm), weighs 49.8 grams
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    Estimate: $500,000 - $700,000.

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    July
    20th Saturday
    Post-Auction Buys Period Ends
    28 Days 22h 44m
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