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What Are Tektites?

darwin tektite

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WHAT ARE TEKTITES?

The idea that continents on Earth today had once constituted a “supercontinent” was prevalent in geologic studies. Pangea was the supercontinent that existed in the late Paleozoic era and was centered on the Equator, surrounded by a vast “superocean” called Panthalassa. Scientists estimate that Pangea was assembled approximately 335 million years ago and began breaking apart about 175 million years ago.

Further studies posit that before Pangea, another supercontinent existed in the Neoproterozoic era, about 550 million years ago, called Gondwana. According to some theories, Gondwana and Euramerica (another continent), merged to form Pangea. The supercontinent was named by Austrian scientist Eduard Suess, who proposed its existence in 1861. Suess’s son, Franz Eduard Suess, walked a similar path to his father’s and would go on to study geology. The younger Suess would coin a term familiar to meteorite collectors and those studying the metaphysical properties of minerals: tektite.

The word “tektite” comes from the Greek word for “molten.” Tektites come in a vast array of shapes and sizes. Moldavites, for example, are a gem-like green while Libyan Desert Glass pieces are honey-colored. Tektites form in a manner similar to terrestrial volcanic glasses, obsidians; they’re ejected during meteorite impacts. However, unlike volcanic glasses, tektites contain virtually no water, and their silica and isotope composition are quite different from obsidians. They also contain bands or particles of lechatelierite, a mineraloid that forms from quartz at very high temperatures. Lechatelierite is not found in obsidians and is common to tektites.

Tektites are traditionally divided into four groups: microtektites, which are less than 1 mm; splash-form tektites, considered the most “normal”; aerodynamically shaped tektites; and layered tektites. Splash-form tektites are shaped like spheres, teardrops, and other shapes you might expect something molten that solidified to take. Aerodynamically shaped tektites acquire their peculiar shape when they re-enter our atmosphere, like iron meteorites. Layered tektites are usually larger and have distinct blocky, chunky appearances and a “layered” structure.

The most widely accepted theory to explain the origin of tektites is that they came from terrestrial material that was ejected during a meteorite impact event. The debris either melted or vaporized, or both – the exact process they undergo is still poorly understood – and cooled as they fell back to Earth. This theory is supported by mineral inclusions of quartz, zircon, chromite, etc. in tektites and the fact that some tektites can be tied to an impact crater by their age and isotopic composition. However, some scientists debate this origin theory and believe tektites could have come from the Moon, an idea supported by Franz E. Suess.

Such explanations posit that tektites formed from volcanic activity on the Moon, which ejected the glasses into outer space, later landing on Earth. Scientists who support this theory cite tektites’ rare-earth and isotopic composition, physical properties, and other characteristics. There are numerous problems with the extraterrestrial origin theory of tektites, however, and most scientists agree that the characteristics displayed by tektites strongly suggest that they derived from terrestrial rocks. Even still, tektites are a major area of interest for those with an academic interest in meteorites, avid and amateur collectors, and even those interested in their metaphysical qualities.

Darwin Glass, Libyan Desert Glass, Moldavite, and Indochinites are some of the most alluring tektites, and we have several specimens available for purchase on our website. Shop here: dev.aerolite.org/shop/our-impactites/

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Libyan Desert Glass

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Libyan Desert Glass

Libyan Desert Glass (LDG) are mysterious, honey-colored glass fragments that lie on the majestic sand dunes in western Egypt. The region was discovered in 1932 and is relatively inaccessible to human beings. Despite the challenges presented by the jagged desert landscape, the area has seen at least 10 expeditions since 1932.

It’s hard to say when, exactly, human beings discovered Libyan Desert Glass; a jewel-encrusted breastplate recovered from King Tutankhamun’s tomb boasts a beautiful scarab, carved from golden Libyan Desert Glass.

The origin of these glasses was, for a long time, considered a mystery; scientists estimated that they formed approximately 29 million years ago and there were two main formation hypotheses to explain their existence. One was that a massive meteorite impact caused the silica in the sand to melt and another pointed to melting by a large atmospheric airburst, which occurs when meteors explode in the atmosphere.

Research on the origin of these glasses is difficult because little remains of whatever it was that caused the melting in the first place. However, scientists have found evidence of a mineral called reidite, which only forms during a meteorite impact. More importantly, this mineral does not form during airbursts. Zircon grains, which are commonly found on Earth, the Moon, Mars, and various meteorites, were found in LDG specimens. These grains, smaller than the width of a single human hair, are what preserve evidence of former reidite.

The composition of LDG is rather astonishing; it’s almost completely pure silica. In an article titled “The Riddle of the Sands,” Giles Wright says that it’s the purest natural silica glass ever found. Some pieces of LDG display small, opaque, spherical inclusions of a silica polymorph called cristobalite.  Its presence in these curious glasses indicates that at one time, the source rock had been heated to temperatures of at least 2822°F (1550°C). Other inclusions have been found in LDG, and scientists study these to attempt to piece together how, exactly, the glasses formed and under what conditions.

Libyan Desert Glass is now difficult to obtain, due to the inaccessibility of the region where they are found and restrictions imposed by the Egyptian government that, in most cases, prohibit the removal of the material from the site. Aerolite Meteorites is fortunate enough to have pieces of the mystical glasses in stock, obtained legally, that display fascinating inclusions, shapes formed by years have the wind and sand swept over them, and in rare cases, marvelous translucency. View our available catalog here.

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The Seymchan Meteorite

seymchan meteorite

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THE SEYMCHAN PALLASITE

The modern Seymchan settlement began in 1940; during World War 2, an airfield was built there to allow aircraft to be delivered there through the Lend-Lease program, whereby the USA would supply the United Kingdom, Free France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and other Allied nations with supplies like food, oil, and weaponry.

In 1949, and through 1955, a sub-settlement located a few kilometers south housed the Dalstroy prison camp, part of the Gulag camp network. Dalstroy was also called the “Far North Construction Trust” and used prisoners in the mining of gold and tin, as well as some timber production. Dalstroy was disbanded a few years after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953.

The Seymchan meteorite was found in a dry river bed in the area in 1967 by Russian geologist F. A. Mednikov. The massive space rock was found lying among river stones; it was triangular-shaped and displayed thumbprints its surface. It was originally classified as an IIE iron; these are octahedrites, the term given to iron meteorites with a crystal structure that mimics an octahedron.

When new material was found to contain olivine crystals, Seymchan was reclassified; its designation was changed to pallasite in 2007. As the Seymchan mass was hurtling through the atmosphere, we imagine that chunks of Seymchan were sheared off at the nickel-iron/olivine borders. Because of that, some areas of Seymchan display olivine-rich clusters, and others consist almost entirely of nickel-iron.

Seymchan belongs to the main group of meteorite pallasites, though scientists find that it contains a high percentage of iridium, a  rare, silvery-white chemical element. Iridium is brittle, despite being considered to be one of the densest metals. On Earth, it’s found in ore mined from South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Australia, and Alaska, USA. Iridium is found in much higher abundance in meteorites than on Earth, which makes a case for asteroid mining.

Seymchan meteorites are attractive to collectors for various reasons; it has an interesting back story and slices can have many different appearances; some areas display olivine-rich clusters, while others consist almost entirely of nickel-iron. Worldwide interest in meteorites continues to grow and olivine-rich Seymchan specimens are now extremely difficult to acquire.

To view our available inventory, click here.

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The Tucson Gem Show is On!

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2021 TUCSON GEM SHOW

Our team is gearing up for the 2021 22nd Street Mineral, Fossil, Gem & Jewelry Show in April–that’s right, the gem show is on!
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The show was postponed to April 8-25 for vendor and customer safety and we, along with all 22nd Street Show vendors, are taking every possible precaution to ensure the well-being of everyone who attends the show. The staff at Eons Expos, who put on the show, have run two successful gem shows in Denver and New York/New Jersey without a single case of COVID-19 being contracted by a vendor or customer.
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Some of their safety precautions include:
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  • Air filtration: although not a requirement, the Main and Showcase Tent will have aggressive air movement via 50-ton HVACS equipped with MERV 13 air filters, which have the most effective air filtration rating and are used in hospitals
  • Aisle width: all Tucson gem shows are required to provide 12′ wide aisles to enable and encourage social distancing
  • Controlled entries: the Showcase Tent will have one entry and one exit in order to monitor capacity limits. The Main Tent will have controlled entries at each end and three ‘Emergency Only’ exits on the sides
  • Staff screening: all show staff and security officers will be subject to daily temperature checks and health evaluation
  • Enforcement: uniformed armed security will be onsite to quickly eject anyone who refuses to mask up
  • Face masks: 100% required with no exceptions
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For more details on safety precautions being taken at the show, click here:
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https://22ndstreet.show/covid-19-information/
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That being said, we would be delighted to see everyone’s friendly faces at the booth this year! The Aerolite team–Beth, Marissa, Max, and Melissa–will be in their usual spot in the upscale Showcase tent.
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See you all then!
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The Tsarev Russian Meteorite

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The Tsarev Stony Meteorite

Witnessed meteorite falls are some of the most spectacular events that occur in the natural world. That an event so rare is also actually seen to occur by human beings is almost equally as unbelievable, but they do happen. Advances in video technology, and how widely available dashcams and home security cameras are, allow us to witness more and more meteorite events.

Before the ability to record video became widely available to the general population, however, people had other means of reporting fireballs and strange occurrences in the sky. Scientists have found petroglyphs in ancient dwellings which appear to depict fireball-like events; meteorite events have been described in paintings, newspapers, and letters before scientists even knew they actually happened.

In the absence of video footage to confirm the meteorite falls or fireballs, eyewitness accounts become very important and, in some cases, can be tied to later finds. Such is the case, it appears, for a meteorite found in 1968 in Russia.

1968 was already a memorable year, marked by a worldwide escalation of conflict. However, in Volgograd Oblast–the primary site of the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II, one of the largest and bloodiest battles in history–a remarkable discovery was made in the quiet fields near the rural village of Tsarev.

“Tsarev,” which translates to czar, is one of the largest stone meteorites found in Russia (the USSR at the time) that resulted in one of the largest meteorite showers in Russian history. Eyewitness accounts revealed that the meteorite shower happened on December 6, 1922, though the stones were not found until 1968. The mineral composition of Tsarev is consistent with that of ordinary chondrites: olivine, orthopyroxene, clinopyroxene, maskelynite, calcium phosphates, nickel-iron, troilite, chromite, ilmenite, and rutile.

Academic samples of the Tsarev meteorite reveal large grains of nickel-iron, light grey areas with a well-preserved chondritic texture, and dark areas containing a matrix with olivine grains and relics of chondrules. Though its parent body remains unknown, experts suspect the meteorite may have originated on or near the surface of the body.

These meteorites may have undergone regolith processes and can provide valuable information in the search for parent bodies of these chondrites. Among the many finds scientists made when analyzing the meteorite was the discovery that the isotopic composition of the noble gases found in Tsarev appear to be comparable to that of solar wind, a stream of particles and plasma released from the Sun’s upper atmosphere.

View our available inventory of Tsarev stone meteorites here.

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Odessa Meteorite Crater

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ODESSA METEORITES

Imagine stumbling across a meteorite crater!

Craters are pretty delicate – like everything else on Earth, they are at the mercy of their environment and many of them have been eroded away by the elements. The Wabar craters, for example, in Saudi Arabia have slowly disappeared over time because the shifting sands have filled them in. Even still, craters are some of the most fascinating geological features on our planet’s surface and new ones are still being discovered today.

In 1892, a rancher looking for a lost calf on horseback had one such experience. He found not only the missing bovine, but he also stumbled upon an odd depression in the landscape, now known to be the Odessa impact crater. Located in West Texas, the crater is now recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service. The crater itself is home to species of cactus, sagebrush, and other plants. The rim of the depression is surrounded by fragments of limestone, which stretches for miles in every direction. Beds of brownish sandstone were also found beneath the surface.

As most know, the Odessa crater was verified as a meteorite impact crater when a geologist noticed an odd paperweight sitting on a desk in the office of Odessa’s first mayor, Samuel R. McKinney. The paperweight, McKinney explained, was a rock that had come out of the center of the crater. This rock was later confirmed to be a meteorite by the head curator of the Department of Geology at the United States National Museum, now the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

The crater is estimated to be about 63,500 years old. It is no longer as deep as it once was, having been slowly filled by soil and debris eroding its original features. However, the crater remains a popular site and is one of the largest impact craters in the United States. Odessa meteorites are a nickel-iron metal and suspected to have crystallized from a melt. These irons belong to the coarse octahedrite class, which describes the way alloy metals in iron meteorites are structured. Some Odessa meteorites display dark fusion crust, caused by the meteoroid’s flight through the atmosphere.

Odessa meteorites are particularly hard to find; they’re highly collectible and have a fantastic background story. Few, if any, new specimens come out of the craters at Odessa, Texas, which has been all but picked clean by meteorite hunters and their metal detectors. We have not offered Odessa in quite some time, and are more than honored to have such fantastic pieces in our current inventory, which you can view here –> https://dev.aerolite.org/product-category/iron-meteorites/odessa/

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Admire Kansas Meteorite

admire kansas meteorite

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ADMIRE METEORITES
Gemstones from Outer Space

The Admire meteorite was found in 1881 in Kansas by a farmer plowing a field. It’s named after the city of Admire in Lyon County (meteorites are named for the places they were found). You might think Kansas–or more generally, the Midwest–is a hot spot for meteorite falls. Meteorites, however, fall randomly across the surface of our planet, and they could land anywhere. Why, then, do so many meteorite finds happen in Kansas?

It’s a combination of factors; the soil in Kansas contains very few indigenous stones. The Kansas soil is also very fertile, so it’s farmed intensely. Meteorites frequently turn up as a result of this farming and, since Kansas soil contains such few stones, these meteorites are less likely to be mistaken for terrestrial rocks.

Scientists believe, after much study, that the Admire pallasite formed at the core-mantle boundary of an ancient asteroid. Pallasites are the rarest of meteorites; less than 1% of all meteorites are pallasites, and even fewer still contain un-shocked crystals, something which academics were surprised to discover in the Admire pallasite.

About 1 in 100 of these crystals, remarkably, lend themselves to faceting, something that is not possible with shocked crystals. Admire is one of the only meteorites that produces these “space gems.” When sliced and polished, Admire meteorite slices present a wealth of richly-colored, angular crystals of different sizes and shapes.

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Where to Buy Mars Meteorite Dust

buy mars meteorite dust

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Where to Buy Mars Meteorite Dust?

If you’ve seen The Martian, you might recall scenes where astronaut Mark Watney treks through the Martian surface, kicking up fine red dust as he goes. Dust from other planets is particularly interesting to scientists, as it’s relatively easy to collect – as far as taking samples from another planet goes – and contains a wealth of information we can use to better understand the planets in our solar system.

The first spacecraft to land on the Martian surface and sample its soil was Viking 1, which used a robotic arm and a special biological laboratory to characterize conditions on Mars. Researchers estimate that meteorites from Mars are between the ages of 4.5 billion to 200 million years old. By comparison, the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, which means some of these meteorites are as old as our very own planet.

Not only are these rocks incredibly ancient, but the journey that they’ve taken to get here is also a perilous one. Few meteorites survive their passage through Earth’s atmosphere, and fewer still are ever recovered by human beings. Meteorites land indiscriminately, and many have fallen in our oceans or in remote areas where they are either unreachable or have been destroyed by the elements. Of the rocks that are successfully recovered, only a small percentage are positively identified as meteorites, let alone meteorites of Martian origin.

That’s why fewer than 0.01% of all meteorites discovered on Earth come from the Moon or Mars, and why there are so expensive – few materials are so rare and difficult to come by. When meteorites are sliced to reveal their interior, the dust is collected and makes for an affordable and unique collectible item.

The Mars Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, will collect soils and core samples of rocks in its mission to search for “signs of past microbial life.” The rover will also further characterize environmental conditions on Mars, like dust and weather, to prepare for human exploration of Mars in the future.

Though some Martian or lunar meteorite specimens may be very small, they are nonetheless part of our cosmic past and our history. Even the smallest of meteorites is part of a story larger than our own planet’s, and one that dates to the dawn of our solar system. Small meteorite specimens, even Mars dust, gives everyone an opportunity to actually hold and own a piece of outer space and are great as gifts, learning tools, and just for fun.

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Meteoritic Iron: Meteorites in Art and History

meteorite knife blade

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METEORITES IN ART AND ANCIENT HISTORY

Iron meteorites are some of the most recognizable space rocks. They stand out because of their size and surface features, but also because they look closest to what one might expect a rock from outer space would look like. Imagine the journey an iron meteorite takes to get to Earth’s surface, originating in the molten cores of ancient asteroids that once orbited the sun between Mars and Jupiter. These asteroids would eventually collide with other asteroids or planetary bodies and were torn apart, their pieces flung far and wide across the solar system.

Some of those pieces ended up in our atmosphere; they were superheated to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit at speeds of up to 100,000 miles per hour, melting to form the beautiful, sculptural indentations we call regmaglypts. Inside, these meteorites form fantastic geometric structures called Widmanstätten Patterns, from cooling very gradually over millions of years. 

Iron Meteorites in Ancient History

These dazzling rocks have been falling to Earth for millions of years. In ancient times, early humans worshipped these strange rocks that fell from the sky as divine beings or gifts from the heavens. There are recorded events throughout the ancient history of stones falling from the sky. Ancient Greeks even had a term for it; diopetes, meaning “falling from heaven.”

In addition, ancient peoples also used iron from meteorites – meteoritic iron – to craft tools and weapons. Not only is this fact supported by analysis of ancient artifacts, but the name for “iron” in ancient languages is evidence of their celestial origin. For example, the Sumerian name for iron was “an-bar,” which meant “fire from heaven.” Similarly, its Egyptian name was bia-en-pet, which loosely translated means “thunderbolt from heaven.”

Gold, Silver, and Meteorites

Precious metals from heaven also include gold and silver, famously used in ancient times as currency and for worship. Gold is believed to be a product of supernova nucleosynthesis, which occurs when supernovas explode. How, then, did gold arrive on Earth? According to one theory, the majority of gold that was present in Earth’s infancy sank into its core and the gold found on its surface arrived there by asteroid impacts. For example, the asteroid that created the famed Vredefort crater is thought to have resulted in one of the richest gold deposits on Earth. 

Similar to gold and silver, meteoritic iron has been used to forge not only weapons but also pieces of art. For example, a Buddhist sculpture dubbed the “iron man” that came out of Tibet was likely created from the Chinga meteorite, which was found in Russia. Other examples of art created from meteorites in the ancient world include a bead found in Egypt, a pendant found in Syria, and perhaps most famously various items, including a bracelet and headrest, found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. 

Contemporary Meteorite Art

While most iron meteorites today are used for academic study on planetary science, on display in museums, or sold into private collections, a few special meteorites are made into art by talented craftspeople. Few possess the skill and knowledge needed to manipulate meteorite iron without compromising the features that make them recognizable and unique.

For example, the knives in our Ice Age Series are crafted from the Muonionalusta meteorite – scientists believe this meteorite pre-dates at least one ice age – which is known for its exquisite Widmanstätten pattern. The blades of these knives have been fashioned from this meteorite as to proudly display this pattern, of which no two are alike.

meteorite knife blade

View the rest of the knives in the Ice-Age Series here.  These knives are handmade in the United States have been crafted with painstaking care. These knives also feature other rare and ancient materials, like dinosaur gembone, mammoth tusk, and shattuckite. These works of art are truly echoes of Earth’s primordial past.

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Rumuruti Meteorites: Chondrites That Are Anything But Ordinary

rumuruti meteorite chondrite

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Rumuruti Has It…
Chondrites that are anything but ordinary

Rumuruti-type meteorites take their name from a 1934 witnessed fall; on January 28, a bright light and loud explosion were observed by locals at around 10:43pm. The shower of stones occurred over ¾ of a mile. The samples collected by academics were tested and determined to be chondrites, though they don’t belong to any of the major chondrite classes. They are the first and only documented R chondrite, making them incredibly rare.

Where do rumuruti meteorites come from?

Scientists believe these meteorites may have come from the parent asteroid’s regolith, which refers to the blanket of loose deposits that sit over solid rocks. As such, they have a dusty matrix that cements together fragments of broken rock and mineral inclusions. Though the exact age of this material has yet to be determined, researchers believe the collision event may have occurred somewhere between 15 and 25 million years ago.

To that end, meteorites that fall under this class of chondrites are quite rare and offer a lot to collectors and scientists. For collectors, slices of rumuruti meteorites, like Northwest Africa 11304, are unique and introduce variety to an existing collection; these slices have fabulous interiors, with brightly-colored chondrules.

Scientific Value of Rumuruti Metoerites

On the other hand, for scientists, the introduction of a new meteorite class offers new opportunities to reconsider what other meteorites are classified as, like the LaPaz Icefield 04840 meteorite. For academics, rumuruti chondrites are valuable because they contain a new kind of “building block” called sulfide chondrules that are leftover from the dawn of the solar system. These sulfur-rich chondrules contain data on a mysterious area in the “protoplanetary disk,” from which the planets in our solar system came.

Further understanding of this region and how gases were distributed in the early solar system is key to the study of so-called primitive bodies and will affect plans for future exploration. Missions like OSIRIS-REx aim to further these goals.

To view our available stock of rumuruti meteorites, click here!

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