From the Moon, Mars and ...Mercury?

The most imposing meteorite in Heritage's January 17 2010 Natural History auction is the large Gibeon octahedrite already described.

However, for some the most exciting pieces will be those which have actually been chipped off other bodies in our solar system by other meteorite strikes, as these are much rarer than octahedrites.

Of these, the top lot is expected to be an exceptional moon rock. Moon rock, whether in the form of a meteorite or collected by the Apollo missions, (a set of photos signed by all three Apollo 11 astronauts is currently available) is exceptionally rare by any standards. However, this is unusually so.

It is taken from perhaps the youngest moon meteorite known to have struck the Earth, NW2727. Inside the rock are two particularly rare kinds of material from the moon: Olivine Gabbro and Mare Basalt.

Exceptional moon rock lunar meteorite
Exceptional lunar meteorite

Mare Basalt is from lava 'seas' formed on the moon billions of years ago, whereas the Olivine Gabbro formed deep under the moon's surface, and must have been extracted by a particularly massive meteorite strike.

The 12.68g piece is expected to sell for $25,000-30,000.

The Martian rock is the rarest of all Martian rocks: a Chassignite. Only two have ever been recovered, and they consist mainly of iron-rich olivine (but a blackened form, not the green gems found in pallasites).

Martian Chassignite meteorite
Martian Chassignite

It is believed these originate from very far under Mars' crust, which is why the massive meteorite strike thought to be responsible for most Martian meteorites only caused a few to escape. The 2.61g sliver of NW2737 is expected to fetch $3,500-$4,500.

Perhaps most extraordinary of all is an angrite. Angrites are created on planets closer to the sun than Earth and the fine-grained matrix of anorthite (pink-purple), shocked olivine (black) and spinel (ruby red) is quite beautiful in certain light conditions.

Mercury Angrite meteorite
Angrite, possibly from Mercury

The lot is thought to have been struck from Mercury, but it is difficult to prove this completely as unlike Mars, no probe has ever been landed on Mercury, so a full comparison is impossible. For this reason the 8.14g lot has the remarkably low listing of $2,500-3,000.

Some collectors would no doubt value it more highly than that, so bidding (live on January 17 or from now over the internet) is likely to be competitive.


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Images: Heritage Auctions

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