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Old Woman’s Knee, Ron N. Hartman, and NWA 400 Meteorites

As I was doing some spring cleaning during our first Montana winter blizzard, I found a bag of meteorites labeled at Oum Rokba. Further, there was a polished complete slice with an accompanying specimen card from the Ron Hartman collection. It gave me pause since I knew Ron Hartman had passed on over a decade ago, and Oum Rokba was not a name in use much today.

Oum Rokba meteorites
Complete individuals of Oum Rokba have a unique and distinct look. They are lacking fusion crust but each has a very smooth, almost polished surface filled with macro textures. Cracks backfilled with ligher colored minerals criss-cross the landscape, and the uniform brown color varies little across specimens.

As an aficionado for those specific meteorites that land at the intersection of culture, history and space science, Oum Rokba, while a find, has created just the confusion I appreciate as a collector. The digital paper trail online for Oum Rokba is plenty deep to learn some lessons and document some takeaways.

While NWA 400, the assigned name for Oum Rokba, is a low number by today’s standards, I remember when NWA numbers were in single digits, and still shunned as a fad in meteorite naming after the “Sahara” numbers were suspect.

Oum Rokba, loosely translated as Old Woman’s Knee in Arabic is a unique weathered H5 chondrite meteorite as noted by the description in the Meteorite Bulletin: “Has a distinctive, smooth exterior devoid of fusion-crust; interior has abundant metal-grains. When purchased, was labeled as Oum Rokba. Today, it carries either of two names, but officially it is listed as NWA 400.

Born in 1935, Ron N. Hartman died on August 30, 2011 after a brief illness.  While sad, the passing of Ron was after a stellar run much longer and richer than most. The outpouring of appreciation for Ron during his earthly travels are what most of us can only hope for. Doing good works that deserve recognition, and leave a healthy trail of influenced students is evidence of a life well lived. So I was pleased to see a specimen card from Ron within this bag of 20 year old meteorite specimens. And 11 years since the passing of Ron, it is clearly another example of how our individual collecting of meteorites is more a temporary curation of these 4.6 billion year old relics of our origin than a personal historic event.

Looking through the Fallen Stars list on the IMCA website, It reads to me as a history of events, and adventures in meteorite collecting. As 2022 closes the door and 2023 opens it, I am again reminded of the value of the participation from each of us as we build together this story of meteorites on Earth.

Stories like that from Ron Hartman matter, so make sure you leave some for the rest of us.

Until next time….

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