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Meteorites from Mars and Moon to be auctioned in US

Meteorites from Mars and Moon to be auctioned in US
Have you ever yearned to own something from out of this world? Then here’s your chance!

Fragments of Mars, the Moon and other asteroids that have fallen to Earth will be auctioned on 14 October in Manhattan.

More than 125 items will be displayed in what auction house Heritage Auctions is claiming as the largest public meteorite auction ever held.

Taken together, every single meteorite known to exist would weigh significantly less than the world’s annual output of gold, said Darryl Pitt, the meteorite consultant for the auction.

This sale includes material from six meteorites that originated on large asteroid Vesta, the Live Science reported.

Bits of Mars and the moon are much more rare, but they, too, have been launched by asteroid impacts. About 68 kilogrammes of moon meteorites are known to exist, and none has been found in Europe or America.

About one-quarter, however, have been found by scientists on the cold desert of Antarctica, according to auction materials.

Mars’ rocks present a particular challenge to identify, because humans haven’t been able to bring Martian rocks back to Earth, as has happened with Moon rocks.

Scientists, however, do know the composition of Mars’ atmosphere, and they have matched it to the composition of pockets of gas contained in some meteorites, confirming their Martian origin.

Next month’s auction is slated to feature meteorites from both places, including a fragment of the Tissint meteorite, which fell in Morocco in July 2011.

The auction also includes two halves from a 1.8-kilogramme lunar meteorite that is the fourth largest available for private ownership.

A meteorite has no value until it has been authenticated by meteoriticist - a scientist who studies meteorites. To examine a meteorite, a meteoriticist must look at the rock’s internal matrix by cutting away a piece. As a result, all meteorites must be cut, except those that fall as part of the same meteor shower, Pitt said.

A description of the meteorite and its name are then published.

A backstory can also make a meteorite more valuable to collectors; for instance, meteorites seen falling from the sky are more valuable than those discovered only after they are on the ground, Pitt said.

The growing market for meteorites has driven the emergence of a prospecting industry in northwestern Africa and Oman.


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