The Beautiful and Mysterious Fukang Meteorite

In 2000, a hiker stopped to have his lunch on a rock in the mountains near Fukang, China. He noticed that the rock had a metallic shimmer and crystals in it, so he broke a few pieces off, and curious to see what kind of rock it was and where it came from, sent the pieces to the United States to be examined. Never would he have imagined he had discovered a piece of geological history from the time the Earth was born.

When found, the Fukang meteorite weighed 1.003 kg, or 2211 pounds, and is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old. It has been identified as pallasite, a rarely found type of stony-iron meteorite, and is made out of a fifty/fifty mixture of an iron and nickel matrix and olivine crystals.

A cross section of the Fukang Meteorite on display at Arizona’s Southwest Meteorite Laboratory. The American laboratory says that its polished portion of the original meteorite is the largest cross-section in the world of pallasites, measuring 36in by 19in.
A cross section of the Fukang Meteorite on display at Arizona’s Southwest Meteorite Laboratory. The American laboratory says that its polished portion of the original meteorite is the largest cross-section in the world of pallasites, measuring 36in by 19in.
By Nicholas Silvestri – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72721111

Where did it come from?

So where did it come from? Scientists say that pallasite meteorites come from deep within meteors formed when our solar system was born, about 4.5 billion years ago. Very few survived the fall through the Earth’s atmosphere, but what remains of them, such as the Fukang meteorite, are some of the most beautiful celestial rocks–rock that has fallen from the sky–that human beings have ever seen. Some say the crystals glow like stars in the night sky, or like the sun shining on stained-glass windows created by the birth of the solar system. The Fukang meteorite is recognized as one of the greatest meteorite finds of the 21st century, especially since pallasites make up just one percent of all meteorite discoveries. 

Pallasites

Pallasites contain large yellow-green, or olivine, crystals, sparkly enough for gems, within a dark glowing silver matrix of nickel-iron. The olivine crystals in the Fukang meteorite are both round and angular, and range in size from less than five millimeters to 11 centimeters. Within many olivine crystals are thin metal veins, although some are less cracked, and shimmer like star-colored diamonds.

Natural History Museum, Vienna. Part of a pallasite meteorite from Fukang ( Xinjiang, China ).
By Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30490501

Pieces of the Meteorite

Because meteorites such as the Fukang meteorite are so rare and so beautiful, they are highly sought by collectors. Since it was discovered, the Fukang meteorite has been divided into many pieces. But if you want your own piece of it, you better save your pennies! In 2008, the largest piece, weighing 925 pounds, went up for sale at auction in New York at a price of $2 million! Although it went unsold, that piece is now kept by an undisclosed–or private–collector or group of collectors. Even the smaller chunks are valuable, and are bought and sold for £20-30, or $30-50 per gram. In February, 2005, a 70-pound section of the meteorite arrived in America for display in Arizona’s Southwest Meteorite Laboratory. The American laboratory says that its polished portion of the original meteorite is the largest cross-section in the world of pallasites, measuring 36in by 19in.

We never know what treasures we might find when we go on an adventure. The world is full of surprises and some of the most exquisite natural wonders we could ever imagine.
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