Meteorite chunk about 300 pounds, 5 billion years old


Here’s a large, dense chunk of the meteor that hit near present-day Flagstaff, Arizona roughly 50,000 years ago. It’s on display at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and, according to Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts, is older than Earth itself. It’s not a gadget, sure, but in the hopes that some of our readers’ interests cross over into the space and astronomy field, here’s a quick science post.

The sample is apparently five billion years old and weighs 300 pounds. Earth itself is approximately 4.6 billion years old, meaning that the meteorite that crashed into present-day Arizona came from a long time ago and (perhaps) a galaxy far, far away.

The land near Flagstaff, AZ that’s home to “Meteor Crater” is also known as “Barringer Crater,” formerly “Canyon Diablo Crater.” Daniel Barringer’s Standard Iron Company purchased the land in 1903 and members of Barringer’s family, who are on the board at The Franklin Institute, donated this gargantuan sample to the museum.

It’s made of a nickel-iron mixture and feels a bit slick to the touch. I asked Pitts if it’d been coated in anything to preserve it and he told me that it’s not been protected in any way. It felt similar to a big bronze statue like you’d find in a city park.

There was also a smaller piece of moon rock inside a glass display that was about 3 billion years old but Pitts thinks the meteorite chunk is cooler because it gives people a chance to “touch the oldest rock they’ll probably ever touch.”

Space Command Exhibit [The Franklin Institute]