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Asteroid Vesta

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Asteroids are mysterious remnants from the formation of the Solar System, approximately 4.6 billion years ago. One of these asteroids is called Vesta, after the Roman goddess of the hearth and home. Meteorites from asteroid Vesta are referred to as HEDs: howardites, eucrites, and diogenites. Vesta is one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, which is located somewhere between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. It’s so large, in fact, it can be seen from Earth.

Vesta was discovered in 1807 by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers, after whom the lunar crater “Olbers” is named. Olbers put forth the theory that the asteroid belt was composed of leftover material from an ancient planet that had been destroyed. Olbers was also responsible for the discovery of Pallas, which was only the second asteroid to be discovered after Ceres.


Howardites, eucrites, and diogenites are meteorites that have all originated from Vesta. These are fascinating to collectors and scientists because we rarely are able to identify where meteorites come from. To have a known, physical sample from Vesta to study is extremely valuable to planetary scientists. Furthermore, for collectors, having the opportunity to own a piece of a scientifically significant meteorite is exciting.


The meteorites from Vesta we call howardites are regoliths, which means they’re made up of pieces of meteorites that hit Vesta and mixed with rocks on Vesta’s surface. In fact, the word “howardite” derives from Greek words meaning “stone” and “blanket,” referring to rocks found on the surface.

On the other hand, eucrites are basalt, or cooled lava that once flowed on Vesta. They take their name from the Greek word “eukritos,” meaning “easily distinguished.” This refers to their being light in weight and interior. Ecurites are difficult to spot and thus are incredibly rare. Diogenites are also thought to come from lava, but these rocks formed when the lava cooled slowly underground. These meteorites take their name from the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Apollonia, who believed the universe was a living substance and our atmosphere was intelligent and the atmosphere was the source of all being.


Meteorites from Vesta are valuable to planetary research. Recently, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx craft found meteorites from Vesta on the surface of asteroid Bennu. Understanding how these rocky worlds formed will ultimately inform what we believe about our early Solar System and the origins of Earth. We didn’t even know what Vesta looked like until NASA’s Dawn spacecraft dropped in on it, and we can look forward to learning much from the HEDs found here on Earth. In the meantime, you can add Vesta to your personal collection.

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Sikhote-Alin Meteorite

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The Sikhote-Alin iron meteorite is a very-well known witnessed fall. Coupled with its fame as a large iron meteorite fall, Sikhote-Alin is a favorite among meteorite collectors for the variety of characteristics they display. In general, iron meteorites often have fantastically different shapes caused by their flight through our atmosphere.

The Sikhote-Alin meteorite fall is one of the largest in recorded history. Scientists estimate that its mass was approximately 220,000 lbs (100,000 kg) before it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, these massive meteorites left impact craters, some as big as 85 feet across and 20 feet deep.

Sikhote-Alin Iron Meteorite Properties

Generally, Sikhote-Alin iron meteorites fall under two categories: individual specimens and shrapnel or fragments. It’s believed that individual specimens broke off from the main object early in the meteorite’s descent. These meteorites often display regmaglypts, which resemble thumbprints on the surface of iron meteorites. Other Sikhote-Alin individuals have flow lines and rollover lips, caused by atmospheric ablation, or even are oriented. The rarest of Sikhote-Alin iron meteorites display all of these traits and are seldom seen on the market.

Shrapnel fragments are special in their own right, too. For instance, because these pieces exploded during flight, they often have a unique, “torn” appearance. Unclean fragment specimens display a rich natural patina, which they acquired during their time on Earth’s surface.

Sikhote-Alin Mountain Region

In addition to being a fascinating meteorite, Sikhote-Alin is the name of a mountain range in Russia of cultural and scientific importance. These mountains were the closest geological feature to the place where the meteorites fell. The Sikhote-Alin mountain region was the subject of Vladimir Arsenyev’s 1923 book, Dersu Uzala, which was later adapted into an award-winning film directed by Akira Kurosawa.

Furthermore, UNESCO placed the “Central Sikhote-Alin” on the World Heritage List, as the home of several endangered species, such as the scaly-sided merganser, the Blakiston’s fish-owl, and the Amur tiger.

Sikhote-Alin Meteorite Worth

Sikhote-Alin meteorites are valuable additions to private and institutional collections. For example, a large specimen is displayed at the famous Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Other museum-grade pieces are displayed in Moscow, the UK, and in other museum collections across the world.

Additionally, Sikhote-Alin meteorites are also available for sale for private collectors. To view available inventory, visit our iron meteorites page!

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Donwilhelmsite Found in Lunar Meteorite

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Earlier this week, news broke of a new mineral called donwilhelmsite that was discovered inside a lunar meteorite. The researchers that made this discovery, a team from Europe, believe this new information will help us better understand what happens when geological material is exposed to the extreme pressures of Earth’s mantle.

The lunar meteorite containing this strange new mineral is Oued Awlitis 001, a lunar meteorite found in Western Sahara by a group of meteorite hunters who stopped by the side of the road to cook dinner following an unsuccessful trip to Morocco. The first piece was found by a gentleman searching for firewood; an additional 50.5-gram piece, which fit perfectly onto the main stone, was later found.

Oued Awlitis is classified as a lunar anorthositic melt rock; anorthosite is an igneous rock – molten lava or magma that has solidified – composed mostly of plagioclase feldspar. Anorthositic rocks are widely studied because geologists still don’t fully understand how they form. Lunar anorthosites come from the light-colored areas of the Moon and are some of the Moon’s oldest rocks. Scientists believe these rocks were created when feldspar, a rock-forming mineral, floated to the top of a magma ocean that surrounded the Moon at its beginning.

Research on lunar meteorites tries to explain how and when the Moon formed and what it’s made of. We actually know very little about how the Solar System formed, though the theory that the planets formed from a Solar Nebula is well-established and widely accepted. Meteorites are a key to unlocking details about how exactly these events transpired; samples collected from the Moon by the Apollo and Luna missions were the first steps towards unlocking these mysteries.

Donwilhelmsite, the new mineral just discovered, is named after Don Edward Wilhelms, a geologist who contributed to the study and mapping of the Moon and helped train Apollo astronauts in geology. He and astronaut Harrison Schmidt – the only geologist sent to the Moon – were employees of the United States Geological Survey.

Meteorites, from the Moon or elsewhere, can contain amino acids, minerals – like donwilhelmsite – and even water. Water, scientists agree, is essential to life as we know it and some meteorites have been found to contain water molecules. A recent study on the ultra-rare Martian meteorite NWA 7034 – commonly known as “Black Beauty” – has found that it contains microscopic water-bearing minerals.

These new findings are incredibly valuable to the understanding of how Mars was formed and what happened immediately after its formation. Further research on donwilhelmsite and meteorites promises to reveal more information about our own planet; the materials found in meteorites are similar to those found on Earth and can tell us more about regions we can’t easily study.

Image credit: Ludovic Ferrière, NHM Vienna.

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Asteroid 16 Psyche

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The value of asteroid research and iron meteorites

Asteroid 16 Psyche has made headlines after a report in Extreme Tech estimated its value at shocking $10,000 quadrillion dollars. Psyche is a large asteroid named after the Greek mythological figure and is thought to be the exposed core of a “protoplanet,” material that hypothetically would have eventually formed a planet. NASA’s Psyche mission will visit the asteroid in 2026 and will spend over 21 months in orbit to map and study Psyche’s properties and composition. This mission will confirm, among other things, whether the asteroid is actually the core of a planet-sized object. 

Asteroids, by definition, are objects orbiting around the Sun that do not have a tail of gas or dust, at which point they’d be called a comet. Asteroids range in size; the largest was Ceres, which earned the designation of “dwarf planet” in 2006. Ceres, named after the Roman goddess, was first observed in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi. When another astronomer, Heinrich Olbers, discovered Pallas, the second-largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, it was decided that these objects needed to be placed in their own categories. The term “asteroid” is derived from Greek and means “star-like” and “star-shaped,” since scientists at the time found them indistinguishable from stars aside from their rapid movement. 

Asteroids are significant to our research for the exploration and settlement of space for several reasons, one of them being that some asteroids pose a potential threat to Earth. These are monitored and tracked by space agencies worldwide, and scientists are working to develop asteroid impact avoidance strategies. 

Asteroid mining is also a major topic of discussion and refers to the extraction of raw material for use on Earth and in space. Asteroids like Psyche, which are composed almost entirely of nickel and iron, could be very valuable far into the future. However, most conversations about asteroid mining focus on those closer to Earth known to contain water or water ice, which can be converted to fuel or used by human colonies in space.

What Asteroid Psyche Can Teach us

Studying an asteroid like Psyche can also tell us about the core of our own planet, which we can’t easily study. Iron meteorites are also valuable for this reason; it’s believed that most iron meteorites originated in the cores of large asteroids. They are almost entirely made up of nickel-iron, the primary component of Earth’s core. 

Most iron meteorites display Widmanstätten patterns, which are crystalline alloy structures that are the result of liquid metal that has cooled over a long period of time. Gibeon, an iron that fell in Namibia, is a meteorite that exhibits an outstanding Widmanstätten, which makes them very desirable. Iron meteorites display other features, like flowlines, thumbprints, and orientation. Sikhote-Alin, the famous meteorite that fell in Russia in 1947, is characterized by regmaglypts caused by ablation as the meteorite hurtled through Earth’s atmosphere. 

Asteroids have fascinated scientists for decades. There’s no limit to what we can do with the information analysts will uncover in the future. As we look forward to NASA’s Psyche mission, we can look to iron meteorites here on Earth to continue to develop hypotheses about what we might discover about the asteroids in the solar system.

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