A Cosmic Masterpiece: The Radiant Wonder of the World’s Most Beautiful Meteorite

 

The Fukang meteorite belongs to a rare class of meteorites known as pallasites (which used to be called lithosiderites). They are characterized by networks of nickel-iron metal in which are set crystals of the silicate mineral olivine. When cut and polished, pallasites show off this impressive arrangement of translucent crystals that tend to be green in color, but they sometimes have distinct yellow, brown, or gold hues that result from weathering while on Earth.

Due to their striking and unusual appearance, pallasites are regarded as one of the first recognized and accepted extraterrestrial materials. They provide a unique and important glimpse into the deep interior of our Solar System, as they were formed some 4.5 billion years ago. The rocks are thought to have formed in differentiated asteroids (asteroids that have separated into two parts – a core and mantle – due to alterations caused by thermal processes).

The Fukang Meteorite’s story:

The hiker who found the meteorite had seen it on previous occasions, but became curious about the strange crystals and metals that appeared to be sticking out of the 1,003-kilogram (2,211-pound) specimen. He eventually decided to send a sample of the rock for analysis. Since then, the meteorite has been divided into multiple slices, which revealed the extent of its extraordinary “stained glass” appearance. It is now one of the most sought-after and valuable meteorites on the planet.

In February 2005, a large part of the original specimen was put on display at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. In 2008, a large piece of the meteorite – weighing around 420 kilograms – was put up for auction in New York and was expected to fetch over $2 million. However, buyers decided to turn their discerning eye to some fossilized dinosaur poo instead. Then, in 2021, Christie’s announced that it had sold a smaller piece of the Fukang meteorite for $30,000.

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