Field Museum gets meteorites from Russia

April 9, 2013 3:53:59 PM PDT
In February, a huge meteorite exploded into thousands of pieces over Russia. Now some of those treasures from space are at Chicago's Field Museum.

The Field Museum got 150 meteorites -- almost two and a half pounds of them ? from the event.

"I expected we would get a piece like this. But we got more than a kilogram of pieces there laid out on the table there," Dr. Philipp Heck, assistant curator of meteorite studies, said.

The space stones are in Chicago because of Terry Boudreaux, one of the world's greatest meteorite collectors. He and a partner sent a team to Russia the day after the event and negotiated to buy the treasures.

"The local villagers actually went out in three feet of snow on their snow skis and looked for holes in the snow. They would dig down with plastic shovels and find these little pieces and throw them in their pockets," Boudreaux said.

What's the difference between an asteroid, a meteor and a meteorite? An asteroid is in space and is over ten meters. A meteoroid is smaller than that, and the space rock is called a meteor when it hits the atmosphere, and a meteorite when it explodes into thousands of pieces.

"We estimate this meteorite is 4.5 billion years old ... Or little bit older. And it came from the inner main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter," Heck said.

The meteor was big when it hit the atmosphere-- 55 feet across and tons of trouble.

"Ten thousand tons or 11,000 tons is what they estimate the mass was," Boudreaux said.

They might be from outer space but they're very close to us.They are us.

"We're all made of the same materials. We're all made of the stars. So, you're right. It's us coming back. The same stuff you find in meteorites you find in us sometimes," Jim Holstein, meteorite collections manager, said.

Some of these pieces will be on exhibit at The Field Museum.