Bruce Dormancy writes: Holiday shopping for items from the Moon, Mars and the wilds of outer space is still possible for those open to meteoritic stocking stuffers. Such truly ancient pieces of space rock — think older than Earth itself — are increasingly sought after by hundreds of high-end collectors looking for natural pieces of sculpture.
Although a plethora of commercial startups are pining for metal riches from asteroids in the Main Asteroid Belt and beyond, meteorite collectors here on terra firma now routinely buy and sell these off-world treasures at auction.
Christie’s South Kensington Auction House in London is planning their first catalog sale of meteorites next April. Prices typically range from around $500 to over $100,000, depending on the size, type of meteorites, condition and provenance, James Hyslop, the Head of Science & Books at Christie’s South Kensington, told me.
However, some meteorites can sell for much higher.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing paid a cool $1 million for two small Mars meteorites. Indeed, Hyslop says lunar and Martian meteorites are the most sought after, since they are also the most rare; representing less than one percent of the estimated 62,000 catalogued meteorites. The rest all originate from asteroidal or cometary bodies in deep space.
Darryl Pitt, Curator of the Macovich Collection of Meteorites in New York — one of the world’s largest private collections, told me that any given meteorite’s sales value is also influenced by other factors. They include whether the piece is whole or fractured; its locality at the time of discovery; its esthetics; color; crystalline structure and translucency.
And often, the more bizarre their shapes, the better collectors like it. Hyslop notes that meteorites with naturally-occurring holes are much rarer and more highly-prized.
Alan Rubin, a UCLA research geochemist, told me that such bizarre shapes result from both fragmentation while traveling through Earth’s atmosphere and often years of terrestrial weathering after hitting the ground.
But the hot quick trip through our atmosphere is nothing to compared to their circuitous orbital routes to Earth itself.
For meteorites that originated on the Moon or Mars, their journeys here can take up to millions of years. Most lunar meteorites either reach the Earth in a few days or achieve quasi-geocentric orbits that bring them to Earth in less than a million years,” said Rubin.
Mars meteorites typically take much longer.
Rubin says we know this as a result of cosmic ray dating on the meteorites themselves.
He says that when objects in interplanetary space are less than a few meters in size, they are penetrated by cosmic rays which transmute some elements into measurable radioactive isotopes. Read the rest of this entry »
For Space.com, Elizabeth Howell writes: A Swedish university student has created a design for an “International Flag of Planet Earth” that could be planted on alien worlds during future human exploration missions.
“The scientific study of flags is called vexillology, and the practice of designing flags is called vexillography. Both of these are an outcome of heraldry. In these practices there are different unofficial design rules/customs, about colors, placement, proportions, typography and aestethics in general. This proposal is accurate according to the regulations regarding flags.”
The student project, which Oskar Pernefeldt undertook for a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, features several interlocked white circles on a blue background. (See more views of the International Flag of Planet Earth.)The flag is intended to remind people that we all share planet Earth, regardless of nationality, Pernefeldt said.
“Current expeditions in outer space use different national flags depending on which country is funding the voyage. The space travelers, however, are more than just representatives of their own countries. They are representatives of planet Earth,” Pernefeldt wrote on his project’s website.
And international cooperation will likely be a big part of any future human missions to Mars and other farflung destinations, not least because of the high costs associated with such an undertaking, exploration advocates say. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s easy to forget that there is an endless, unexplored space beyond our tiny planet Earth.
This new video from All Time 10s is packed with tons of fun facts about outer space, touching on some the of strangest objects humans have discovered there — like zombie stars and metal worlds.
Who knows what’s still out there?