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A January Meteorite Fall

Renazzo, Italy

From the Cradle of Meteorite Civilization
I had the pains of a terminal specimen in my collection when this glorious slice of Renazzo was handed to me by the FedEx driver.

Of course I knew it was coming, and had spent time on the phone with the nice folks in the customs office, filled out and faxed back the appropriate paperwork, and paid the import taxes. But still, it was a surprise to hold it in my hands. To gaze at it under the microscope. To ponder its past 183 years on this planet.

At 8:30 in evening on January 15, 1824, several stones fell on a small Italian town. Three specimens were preserved from the fall with the largest listed as weighing 5kg. However, in the following almost two centuries, the accountable weight of this precious relic of our solar system's childhood has been whittled down to around one-fourteenth of the original mass.

Italian meteorites are always near and dear to my quarter-Italian heart. I want to believe that my ancestors heard of this meteorite's fall event, if not heard it fall in person.

The classic metal of a CR chondrites is obvious in Renazzo since it is THE CR chondrite upon which all others for the rest of time in this universe will be compared.

Although Renazzo is a significant and historical piece of meteorite science, it failed to even get a passing mention in Burke's book Cosmic Debris. I suspect the reason is that the extreme rarity of Renazzo in collections forced it to remain hidden during the large institutional transactions chronicled in the book.

But as if to make up for the shortcomings in Burke, Google Scholar lights up like a Christmas tree with Renazzo references. Don't believe me? Click here.

Fusion crust wraps two of the four edges making this stunning slice of meteorite history even more special. While not huge (as evidenced by the 1cm cube), this slice is a fairly large sample of Renazzo for any meteorite collection anywhere, public or private.

There was no specimen of Renazzo on public display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. However there was a small slice presented in the meteorite display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

However, the AMNH slice is only about twice the size of my piece (and mine has twice as much crust), and according to the Smithsonian meteorite collection catalog, my piece is larger than that represented in the national collection of the United States.

Here is a close up of the slice in New York. Identified as AMNH 4905, this specimen had to be lit with the camera's flash since the display's lighting failed miserably in showing the true look of the chondrule-rich matrix.

This amazing fragment of Renazzo is displayed in the Vienna Museum of Natural History in Austria. The photo is graciously provided by Peter Marmet whose collection of meteorites is becoming legendary. See his website here. And to learn more about Peter, please read his Meteorite Times interview.


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