An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine

This feature is devoted each month to one of the personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to share an interview we had with Phyllis Budka.

Meteorite-Times (MT) What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite?

Phyllis Budka (PB) I saw my first nickel-iron meteorite microstructure, Gibeon, while sitting at a metallograph (metallurgical microscope) in a student lab at Union College in Schenectady, New York. It was the fall of 1979 and I was studying for a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering. The professor had a polished piece of Gibeon suitable for viewing in the lab. As he handed me the Gibeon specimen, the professor said, “Don’t ask me to explain the microstructure.”

I went to the college library and found Stuart H. Perry’s 1944 book, “The Metallography of Meteoric Iron.” A geology professor loaned me a cut and polished palm-sized piece of Springwater stony-iron for the weekend. By this time, I had had a course in welding metallurgy and was fascinated by Skylab’s experiments in space. I clearly remember sitting at home with Springwater in my hand and suddenly realizing that I was looking at the microstructure of a casting that had solidified where there was very little gravity! The small olivine “circles” sitting in a shiny metal matrix were like “peas in jello.” Due to density differences between olivine and nickel-iron metal, this kind of microstructure does not form in Earth’s gravity. Thus the “radical” concepts of (a) non-equilibrium solidification (b) under microgravity conditions for nickel-iron and stony-iron meteorites were born and then documented in my 1982 Masters thesis.

The process of challenging long-held, widely accepted beliefs and proposing new ideas is documented in the papers on my web site, “Meteor Metals” at

I am hoping to open a dialogue with people around the world to contribute to a better understanding of nickel-iron and stony-iron meteorite formation and, perhaps, to contribute to a better understanding of engineering metals as well.

Suffice it to say that I was a mature student when I first saw Gibeon.

(MT)  What was your first meteorite?

(PB) Gibeon nickel-iron and Springwater stony-iron (pallasite) cut and polished specimens were the first meteorites I studied.

(MT)  Do you still have it?

(PB) The specimens were not mine.

(MT)  Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites (thin sections, photography, chemistry, age dating.. etc)?

(PB) I am interested in understanding the formation of meteoritic materials.

(MT)  Does your Family share in your interest in meteorites?

(PB) Yes

(MT)  Do you have any special approaches to collecting? (Type collection, only stones, only irons, only by aesthetics, etc. or any and all that you like.)

(PB) I love them all.

(MT)  Do you mind saying how many locations your collection represents?

(PB) I don’t know.

(MT)  Is your collection displayed or kept in a dry box or both?

(PB) Displayed

(MT)  In what ways do you use your computer for meteorites?

(PB) I use the computer to develop my web site, write papers, analyze microstructures with PhotoShop, and to communicate with people who have similar interests.

(MT)  Do you ever hunt for meteorites?

(PB) I am ALWAYS looking for meteorites, especially when I take a walk in the Adirondack Mountains, where there are lots of rocks! I haven’t found one yet, but will keep trying.

(MT)  What is your favorite meteorite in your collection?

(PB) Imilac

(MT)  What is your favorite overall if it is not the one above?

(PB) Gibeon.

(MT)  What makes these of special interest?

(PB) Micrographs of Imilac and Gibeon have led to additional insights into meteorite formation processes. These insights are documented in papers on my “Meteor Metals” web site.

(MT)  What meteorites are currently on your wish list?

(PB) I would love to have more cut and polished pieces of nickel-irons and stony-irons for study.

(MT)  What methods have been most successful in building your collection? (Buying at shows, from dealers by mail, auctions on the web, trading... etc)

(PB) I have been given small pieces of a variety of meteorites for study by many generous people and have also purchased some.

(MT)  Do you also collect related materials like impact glasses, breccias, melts, tektites, shocked fossils, native iron rocks etc?

(PB) I have several tektites and some native iron crystals. My favorite non-meteorites are quartz and pyrite crystals.