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Five Decades of Pure Science: The Allende Meteorite Hits Middle Age

An hour after midnight half a century ago, one of the most important meteoritic events ever appeared in the southwestern sky above the Mexican state of Chihuahua. And by the next morning, a formally very rare class of meteorite was now not only abundant, but as fresh as they come and on it’s way to labs around the world. As easily the most studied meteorite in history, Allende has been giving back to collectors and scientists alike revealing more secrets of the solar system every time we take another look at it.

Allende is a CV3 carbonaceous chondrite that fell February 8, 1969 at 01:05 hours. The total recovered weight is several tons. Of the 485 known CV3 meteorites catalogued, only four CV3 meteorites have been witnessed to fall. And comparing mass, one kilogram of the 1907 fall Bali was recovered; 3.5kg of the 1861 fall named Grosnaja were recovered, and 5.3kg of the 2001 fall of Bukhara were recovered. Comparing that to the 2000kg of Allende, one can easily see that Allende was an amazing gift to science.

The brecciated Allende is packed with colored clasts, organics, presolar grains, diamonds, amino acids, calcium aluminum inclusions, and in 2012, a new titanium dioxide mineral named panguite which just happens to also be one of the oldest minerals in the solar system. By the way, Pan Gu is an ancient Chinese god that created the world through the separation of the earth (yin) from the sky (yang).

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the fall of the Allende meteorite, I took out one of my specimens and spent some time enjoying it through hand lens and microscope. The heavily crusted individual of some 288 grams is also graced with a Leonard Collection number: LC451. While I do have a catalog of the Frederick C. Leonard Collection, it was published in November of 1951, almost two decades before the fall of the Allende meteorite.

Today, the Leonard meteorite collection is part of the UCLA Meteorite Collection. Back in the early 1960s, UCLA purchased 192 meteorite specimens from the Leonard estate, who, by the way, founded the UCLA Department of Astronomy. The UCLA Meteorite Collection today contains more than 1300 specimens.

So now’s the time to revisit your own Allende samples. I wonder what scientific wonders are still sitting discovered within Allende? No doubt the next 50 years will be amazing thanks to Allende.

Until next time….



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