Field Museum to add ‘Mona Lisa of meteorites’ to permanent collection

By Melissa Espana Staff Reporter

June 18, 2014 3:08PM

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Updated: June 18, 2014 6:22PM

Four fossil meteorites are being added to the Field Museum’s Grainger Hall Gallery.

The meteorites, called “L chondrites” by scientists, each came from the same asteroid; it was about 100 kilometers — about 63 miles — in diameter when it reached Earth about 500 million years ago. Fragments of the asteroid eventually landed on the planet.

A block of limestone surrounds each meteorite, one of which has a fossil of a cephalopod (kind of like a squid) on the limestone.

Philipp Heck, associate curator of meteorites and polar studies, said these pieces are “the Mona Lisa of meteorites.” Of the 50,000 meteorites known to science, only 100 are fossils.

“They are so rare and so unique,” he said. “If people really saw the significance of these, they will stand out next to all these other 50,000 meteorites.”

The fossil meteorites were found in a limestone quarry in southern Sweden, where they were embedded about 500 million years ago.

Heck said research has been done with the preserved minerals in the meteorites to determine how long it took them to get to Earth and where they came from.

“If people knew the background and story behind them, they would be super excited,” he said. “And we know now we’ve only just scratched the surface.”

Heck said they will do their best to explain the significance behind each meteorite when they go on permanent display, sometime before the end of the year.

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