A meteorite comprised of the oldest matter that mankind can touch, and a fragment from a space rock responsible for one of only two extraterrestrial impacts into a person are among the most unusual items currently available during a unique auction being held at Christie’s in New York.
Called the ”Deep Impact: Martian, Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites” event, the items available for purchase are precisely what one might expect from the auction’s name – 42 individual space rocks, some originating from the Moon, some from Mars, and some from elsewhere.
One of the items up for sale, with an estimated value of between $7,000 and $10,000, is a piece of the 15.5 ton Willamette meteorite at the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center, which Christie’s referred to as “perhaps the most famous meteorite in the world” in a statement.
Discovered in 1902 in Oregon, the Willamette meteorite has been on display at the museum for more than 100 years and has been seen or touched by an estimated 50 million people, according to the auction listing. It contains a number of deep cavities caused by the weathering out of iron sulfides, and the rock itself was formed in the metal core of a melted asteroid, they noted.
Background story, coordinates of impact detailed by Christie’s
Another item up for auction is said to contain the oldest matter mankind can touch: a meteorite fragment from a Mexican museum which purportedly contains some of the first particles to ever condense from the gaseous solar nebula during the formation of our solar system.
The meteorite fragment comes from Allende, which the auction house calls “the most important and most thoroughly researched meteorite of all time,” and contains CAIs or calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions that are nearly 4.6 billion years old – or, as Christie’s official James Hyslop said in an interview with CNN, nearly “a third as old as time itself.”
Other offerings include a piece of the Talladega County meteorite “Sylacauga,” which struck a woman in the leg in November 1954 and is one of only two known extraterrestrial objects known to have struck a person, and a piece of a fossil meteorite that is believed to have struck the Earth approximately one million years ago, according to the auction house listings.
Hyslop explained to CNN that there are three main reasons that meteorites are so appealing to collectors: “Number one, they are incredibly rare. Number two, they are hugely beautiful. And number three, there is that wonderful philosophical conundrum about them. They don’t come from this world. They are extraterrestrial and otherworldly works of art.”
He added that each of the meteorite fragments were graded based on their size, shape, scientific appeal and background story. In addition to descriptions of how large each of the space rocks are and what they look like, each page of the online auction includes background information on the available meteorite, as well as the exact coordinates where it fell to Earth and was discovered.
Image credit: Christie’s