Home Science The mystery of the origin of the Fukang . meteorite

The mystery of the origin of the Fukang . meteorite


Fukang meteorite is the name of a rock discovered in China. Belonging to an iron-rock meteorite (Pallasite), it is recognized by fragments of olivine crystals embedded in an iron-nickel substrate.

The Fukang meteorite is auctioned off. Where this extraterrestrial object originated and how was formed is still a topic of discussion among scientists. Coming from an asteroid The Fukang meteorite glows in the sunlight. The Fukang meteorite was discovered near the town of Fukang in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northwest China, in 2000 by an unidentified hiker. Every day, this person often stops by a giant rock to have lunch and rest. Once, he was suddenly curious about the structure of this object, when he noticed that it seemed to have metal and crystal inside, so he decided to break some pieces and send it to the US for confirmation of the type. He was surprised to learn that these samples did not come from Earth, but belonged to a meteorite. In February 2005, these objects appeared at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Exhibition (USA). Here, it was noticed by Professor DS Lauretta (a specialist in Planetary Science and Astrochemistry at the University of Arizona), who is also the principal investigator of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Then, the remains of the Fukang Meteorite (with a mass of 983 kg, excluding the 20 kg mass smashed by hikers) was directly studied by the University of Arizona (USA). Scientists said that this rock belongs to the type of iron-stone meteorite, called Pallasite. Pallasite meteorites contain olivine, which is thought to come from the crust of a rocky planet orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. If not from the planet, it could belong to an asteroid with a rocky shell and a metal core. Pallasite can be distinguished by a meteorite iron substrate, embedded with silicate crystals, mainly olivine (a yellow to greenish-yellow crystal). The Pallasite meteorite is named after Simon Peter Pallas, a German naturalist. He was the first to describe Pallasite Krasnojarsk, a 700 kg meteorite, discovered in Russia in 1772. The origin of the Fukang meteorite, like other Pallasite meteorites, has not been scientifically explained so far. It is hypothesized that it originated from an asteroid with a melted and decomposed metal core and surrounding olivine mantle and formed with the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago. In addition to its rarity, the Fukang meteorite, like other Pallasites, is a very beautiful object. When shined through the olivine crystals, the light will make the meteorite glow brightly and spectacularly. Most expensive A cross section of the Fukang meteorite is on display at Arizona State University (USA). Because of this beauty, collectors have always wanted to own pieces of the Fukang Meteorite. The largest part of this meteorite, weighing nearly 420 kg, is currently in the possession of an anonymous collector or group of collectors. In 2008, the above Fukang meteorite was auctioned at Bonham’s, New York (USA) with a starting price of about 2 million USD. A curator and online auction organizer has placed the Fukang meteorite at number one in the “Top 10 Most Expensive Meteorites Ever Discovered on Earth”. However, no one participated in the auction for this treasure perhaps because the price was too high. Meanwhile, other small pieces of the remaining meteorite, have been purchased in auctions and distributed around the world. Particularly, the University of Arizona Meteorite Laboratory (USA) holds a total of 31 kg of Fukang meteorites. Their website describes the Fukang Pallasite as “the most breathtaking example of the splendor of the natural universe”. In February 2021, the famous auction house Christie’s said it had sold “part of the most beautiful extraterrestrial matter known”. That tiny piece of meteorite alone brought the seller $30,000, far exceeding the initial estimate of $3,500 – $4,500. What makes the Fukang meteorite so special? First of all, this is not an “ordinary meteorite”. Pallasite is an extremely rare heaven stone. This is because most Pallasite cannot survive falling into Earth’s atmosphere. It is estimated that less than 1% of rock falling from the sky is Pallasite. Therefore, the Fukang Meteorite is considered by scientists as one of the most important celestial rock discoveries of the 21st century. According to the Planetary Science Institute, based in Tucson, Arizona, USA, there have been about 1,100 observed and found meteorite falls in history. Meanwhile, the number found but not observed goes up to 40,000. The Fukang meteorite is among these. The institute estimates that about 500 meteorites collide with Earth every year, most of which burn up in the atmosphere, the rest fall into the ocean or in remote, desolate regions (According to Science 101).