It says a lot for the sensibility of the French that the editors of La Gazette Drouot chose to illustrate this stunning meteorite on its cover in November 2015. The Gazette is always packed full of treasures, mostly of much greater monetary value, and yet they resonated to the mysterious fascination of this emissary from Outer Space, dressed to impress. It was sold as part of Pierre Delpuech’s remarkable collection of meteorites.
It comes from Imilac, on the high Andean plateau of Chajnantas, above Chile’s Atacama Desert, where the Alma Observatory peers into the deepest recesses of the Universe. The meteoric debris was scattered over 8 kilometers, about a ton in all, shattered by its burning path through Earth’s atmosphere. The site was discovered in 1822, and the remarkable feature of this meteorite is the transparent olivines embedded in its iron matrix. Less than 1 per cent of known meteorites are of this type, and only four showers have been observed: Mineo, Sicily, May 1823; Zaisho, Japan, February 1898; Marjalahti, Finland, June 1902; and Ormolon, Russia, May 1981.
In 1794, Peter Simon Pallas, a German zoologist and naturalist working for the Russian court, brought back a 680 kg meteorite discovered near Krasnoiarsk in Siberia. On his return to Germany, he gave a sample to the physicist Ernst Chladni, who named the hitherto unknown type of meteorite ‘pallasite’.
Provenance: Pierre Delpuech, France