The UCLA Meteorite Gallery

I got an email that there was to be a grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony at UCLA for the new Meteorite Gallery. It was taking place the next day. So I got my camera out and charged a couple batteries and put about 50 gigabytes of SD cards in the camera bag and rearranged my schedule. It was the opportunity to finally get to meet a few people who over the years have been really helpful in characterizing meteorites for me and the business. I could actually thank them in person.

Friday afternoon traffic up in West LA is always a nightmare and they are working on the freeway so I gave myself plenty of time and it took quite a bit of it to get there. But I did arrive early enough to walk around a little and get the self tour. I saw some equipment through widows in doors. I really just was snooping around. I saw the geological maps and charts lining the walls and thought “I studied this stuff back in the paleolithic.” I went up to the forth floor and past Dr. Rubin’s office. Then a couple minutes later actually came around a corner and saw him. I greeted him and walked for a minute down the hall with him. Just before a big event is not the time to have a chat.

Dr. Alan Rubin enjoying a moment at the reception after the grand opening

I always feel a little out of place at events with lots of dignitaries and I was really hoping that there would be someone that I knew at this event. I was there to cover it as a journalist, but it is more fun if someone is there to talk to.

I made my way to the meeting room a few minutes early and picked up my name tag from the table where they were already printed up waiting. Clipped it on and entered the room. John Wasson was there and I reintroduced myself to him. We had spoken years ago but only once. He too was off in a moment to prepare for the ceremony. I had seen Nick Gessler walking in the hall earlier but had not greeted him yet. As I was thinking that he might be the only person I really knew at the event Jason Utas and Michelle Myers came in. Jason is a student at UCLA and working in the department now. He is clearly having fun and enjoying learning to use the equipment.

Michelle Myers and Jason Utas at the Grand Opening of the UCLA Meteorite Gallery.

After several speeches and introductions it was time to move to the Meteorite Gallery and behold what wonders they had decided to bring out of the darkness of old cabinets and into the light of display cases. I am a sucker as most readers know for anything Meteor Crater related. UCLA has another of those wonderful early Canyon Diablos that were sent around the world in the first few decades after the crater was recognized. Their specimen is called the Clark Meteorite as it was a member of the Clark Library that they were given decades ago. UCLA has had the Clark Meteorite since 1934 which is about the same length that Griffith Observatory and The Natural History Museum have had theirs. It is the centerpiece right now resting on a low stand in the middle of the Gallery. Weighing in at 357 pounds it is a beautiful Canyon Diablo the only touch meteorite so far in the Gallery.

50,000 years ago an asteroid slammed into what would later be central Arizona creating famous Meteor Crater. The Clark Meteorite seen at the UCLA Meteorite Gallery is a very nice naturally sculptured piece of iron from that impact event.

The UCLA Meteorite Gallery is dedicated to providing information and education more than any other museum I have been too. Usually you will only see the name of the specimen perhaps the type and maybe if you are lucky the weight. At the UCLA Meteorite Gallery you get much more information. You get to learn how the different types of meteorites relate to one another and about their places of origin and the parent bodies where they formed.

The UCLA Meteorite Gallery offers a rich learning experience with much more in-depth information about the meteorites then usually seen in museums.

The display cases are arranged mostly by meteorite family. The Carbonaceous in one and the Differentiated in another. The Chondrites are in another and so forth. There is one case devoted to the meteorites that were donated to the UCLA collection by Arlene and Ted Schlazer. It is also where visitors will find the wonderful back-lit displays of several pallasites.

Etched Iron Meteorites, Mesosiderites and Pallasites are the main feature of the display case containing the donations by Arlene and Ted Schlazer.

I guess it is time to personalize the visit to the gallery. After all I don’t want to show you everything here. There is a case devoted to California meteorites. I have several type specimens residing at UCLA in the permanent collection. One of them is a California find that was classified by Dr. Rubin. It is small and old and unless they create a display case devoted to weather beaten and ugly meteorites it will never see the light of day. But, it is always fun to stand in front of a case containing California meteorites. Hunting meteorites with my friends especially Paul Harris has been some of the most enjoyable times in the desert of my life. And as I stood in front of the California Meteorites display case I saw one that really caught my eye. The specimen is El Mirage Dry Lake 004. I will always remember the day that Paul found the first ever meteorite to be recovered on El Mirage. That meteorite is EMDL 001 and that little baby was classified at UCLA and a piece of it will reside there forever.

El Mirage Dry Lake 004 is just one of about 250 meteorites that have been found in California and UCLA has been an important place for the research and analysis done on them.

I got a chance to speak with Jason and with Nick and did not feel too by myself during the afternoon. By the time I left after seeing all the meteorites and especially the California display case I was feeling again like a tiny part of the much bigger community of the meteorite world.

Just as a final note I loved the impact melt display case. I had a beautiful impact melt classified about two years ago by Dr. Rubin. That story is in the back issues of Meteorite Times. It is NWA 7347. No it is not on display either, but a huge slice of Chico is. I thought I had two nice pieces of Chico each with the core hole. But, the piece at the UCLA Meteorite Gallery is from way deeper in the Chico mass and numerous times larger than mine. For me nothing beats a really nice impact melt meteorite.

Impact melt meteorites are a type that record a more violent history in their rock. Chico is a beautiful impact melt that needs to be seen up close so make sure to see it when you visit the Gallery.

The Meteorite Gallery at ULCA is open week days except holidays from 9 AM to 4PM and is located on the third floor of the Geology Building in Room 3697. They have created a great website about the gallery which can be found at http://www.meteorites.ucla.edu/gallery/

About the Author

James Tobin
The Meteorite Exchange, Inc. was born in 1996 with meteorite.com and Meteorite Times Magazine in 2002. Still enthusiastic about meteorites and all things related to them, we hunt, collect, cut and prepare specimens. We travel to gem shows and enjoy meteorites as much now as in the beginning. Please feel free to share any comments you have on this or any of our other sites.
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