Meteorites are remnants of asteroids, comets, and other celestial objects that have fallen to Earth. These extraterrestrial rocks are essential to understanding the origins and evolution of the solar system. The Fukang meteorite, a rare and breathtaking pallasite, is one such example that has captivated scientists and collectors alike since its discovery in 2000. In this article, we’ll explore the history, classification, composition, and significance of the Fukang meteorite.
History of the Fukang Meteorite
The Fukang meteorite was found in the mountains near Fukang, Xinjiang Province, China, in 2000 by a local dealer. The original mass weighed 1,003 kilograms, but 20 kilograms were removed before it was taken to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February 2005. There, it was seen by Dr. Dante Lauretta, a professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona, who later led a team of research scientists to investigate the meteorite’s composition.
Classification and Composition of the Fukang Meteorite
The Fukang meteorite is a pallasite, a type of stony-iron meteorite with olivine crystals. It contains large, gem-quality olivine in a nickel-iron matrix, with some of the olivines measuring several centimeters in diameter. The metal matrix is mostly kamacite, with an average nickel content of 6.98 wt%. The pallasite also contains vermicular sulfide (troilite) in some olivine. The Fukang meteorite’s oxygen isotopes are δ18O 2.569 ‰, δ17O 1.179 ‰, and ∆17O = −0.157 ‰.
Significance of the Fukang Meteorite
The Fukang meteorite is significant for several reasons. First, it is a rare and exceptionally beautiful example of a pallasite. Second, its composition and structure provide important information about the processes that occurred in the early solar system, specifically about the formation and evolution of asteroids. Finally, the Fukang meteorite’s large size and high quality have made it highly sought-after by collectors, and it has commanded prices upwards of $2 million at auction.
Specimens of the Fukang Meteorite
A 31-kilogram section of the Fukang meteorite’s type specimen is on deposit at the University of Arizona, and another section weighing the same amount is held by Marvin Killgore. The main mass, which was offered for auction at Bonhams in 2008, remains unsold. A “window” area of the meteorite was cut and polished to provide a view into the gem areas of the pallasite.
The Fukang meteorite is a rare and stunning example of a pallasite that has captured the imagination of scientists and collectors alike. Its composition and structure offer important insights into the early solar system, and its beauty and rarity have made it a highly coveted object. While the Fukang meteorite’s exact origin and journey remain a mystery, it continues to be a valuable and fascinating object of study and appreciation.