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Fall That Glitters: Microscopy Reveals Stained-Glass Beauty in Ancient Meteorites [Slide Show]

Under a polarizing light microscope, chondrules—melted bits of silicate-rich material in meteorites—turn slices of the space rocks into bedazzling art

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CARBONACEOUS CHONDRITE UP CLOSE:

Three large chondrules dominate this slice from a meteorite recovered in Antarctica in 2007; the slice is 3.4 millimeters across. The one at the top harbors large grains of olivine separated by devitrified glass—once-real glass that was turned into tiny grains by mild heating and other processes.....[ More ]

CARBON-RICH CHONDRITE:

This rock, known as the Allende CV carbonaceous chondrite, represents one of the asteroids that were rich in organic matter and that orbited far from Earth, probably beyond three astronomical units from the sun.....[ More ]

RARE ROCK:

Unlike ordinary chondrites, those in the Rumuruti (R) group are rare. The only ones directly observed as they fell rained down on Rumuriti, Kenya, on January 28, 1934. The transmitted light microscope image here shows a slice from a specimen known as Mount Prestrud 95404, uncovered in Antarctica in 1995.....[ More ]

A VERSION FOM CHINA:

Another arresting specimen of an ordinary chondrite, again less than 10 millimeters across, was sampled from the Bo Xian chondrite, which made landfall in Zhang Wo, China—a part of Bo County, in Anhui Province— in 1977.....[ More ]

ANOTHER “ORDINARY” BEAUTY:

The Bovedy ordinary chondrite fell in Northern Ireland in 1969. Here, many of the chondrules are surrounded by fine-grained material consisting of silicate grains.....[ More ]

JEWELED JULESBURG:

Viewed through a polarizing light microscope, a thin slice through a dull-looking ordinary chondrite becomes a dazzling specimen studded with glittery bits—the chondrules. The slice, less than 10 millimeters across, was cut from the Julesburg chondrite, found in a landfill in Julesburg, Colo., in 1983.....[ More ]

GARDEN VARIETY CHONDRITE:

This meteorite, weighing seven kilograms and standing six centimeters tall, is known as the La Criolla L6  “ ordinary” chondrite. It fell in near La Criolla, Argentina, in early 1985.....[ More ]

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