Meteorites from Mercury? Soon we may know for sure for the first time...

Yesterday (March 17th) at 8.51pm CDT, the spacecraft Messenger was confirmed as being the first spacecraft to go into orbit around Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun. The name of the spacecraft chimes with the name of the planet: Mercury was the messenger of the Greek gods.

How does this relate to the world of space collectibles? Well, discoveries about the planet may matter a great deal to the value of a certain sort of meteorite: angrites.

For meteorite collectors, the magic of owning something which has originated from outside our world is paramount. But in extremely rare cases, collectors can go one stage further and know that the meteorite originated on another heavenly body altogether.

Occasionally, significant meteorite impacts (which are more common on planets other than Earth, as they have no atmosphere) launch new meteors from the surfaces of the spheres, and a very small minority of these may make it to Earth.

Bonhams slice of Angrite
Bonhams slice of angrite

But how can you be certain if an unworldly rock you find has originated on another world? Well often you can't.

In fact only meteorites from our own Moon and relatively close neighbour Mars have been confirmed as such, and that is by the relatively straightforward method of chemical comparison between meteorites and the planets themselves.

Man has visited the Moon 'personally', whilst chemical knowledge of Mars derives from data such as the Viking landers. But our knowledge of most of the other planets is somewhat more limited.

Mercury Angrite meteorite
Heritage slice of angrite meteorite

As a result angrites, which are near-black sun-scorched rocks thought to have originated on Mercury, have never had their origins confirmed, and therefore their prices have never reached the extremely high prices that an investment-grade Martian meteorite might.

(Heritage's greatest price achieved for an angrite is just under $5,000, whilst they have sold a slightly smaller Martian meteorite for $35,000.)

As more data on Mercury is gathered, some collectors may be on the brink of discovering that they can touch a piece of another world.


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