Birth of the Solar System - Allende Meteorite
Birth of the Solar System - Allende Meteorite
The Allende meteorite landed on our planet in 1969, but its origin goes all the way back to the birth of the Sun. Encased in resin with a glimmering shine, this specimen is a piece of the building blocks of our solar system.
4.6 billion years ago, the solar system was a cloud of gas, dust, and heat. Over time, this material accumulated into asteroids, planets, and our star. Geologic processes melted and reformed much of the original material of our solar system, but some small pieces from that time remained in chondritic meteorites like Allende.
This item contains authentic meteorite dust from the Allende meteorite. The specimen contains an artistic glitter pattern to represent the formation of our solar system from dust and gas.
📸 A close look at the Gas Cell Material
From the Moon to your Hand
The solar system burst into existence roughly 4,568,200,000 years ago. At first, it was a massive disk of dust, ice, and heat which orbited a newly formed sun. Over billions of years, the particles in this disk slowly collided and combined, eventually creating planets and asteroids. Enclosed in this specimen are the earliest known fragments of that event, which fell to Earth inside the Allende meteorite.
On February 8, 1969, this 2.2 ton meteorite exploded over the village of Pueblito de Allende in northern Mexico, scattering debris over an area of 30 miles. The Allende meteorite is the largest known carbonaceous chondrite, filled with ancient mineral inclusions which formed at the birth of the solar system. In 2020, scientists also found the presence of extraterrestrial proteins, the first discovery of its kind.
This specimen is a handcrafted resin circle composed of fine-grained dust extracted from the Allende meteorite. The material has also been prepared with a slight glimmer effect to represent the incredible comic show of heat and light that created our solar system.
Each specimen is hand crafted and may exhibit differences in placement and texture. The specimen is enclosed in a handsome, glass-topped riker box case measuring 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also included.
This is an incredibly rare meteorite as well as the oldest matter currently available in our collection.
📸 A look at the protostar L1527 from NASA's Webb Telescope — a sight not so different from how our solar system was born.
MORE ABOUT ALLENDE AND THE BIRTH OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
📸 An artist's depiction of a protoplanetary disk which will eventually form a solar system
From Dust to Dust
Before the planets formed, the solar system was a mix of dust, grains, and ice that orbited the protosun in a disk shape. Over time, this material smashed together, slowly forming planets and asteroids. While the planets grew and changed, asteroids floated around the solar system for billions of years, only occasionally colliding with other objects.
Eventually, some asteroids fell to Earth as meteorites, carrying within them elements left over from the crucible of the early solar system from over four and half billion years ago. One such meteorite is the Allende.
On February 8, 1969, a fireball cut across the sky over Northern Mexico. The car-sized meteorite broke up over the village of Pueblito de Allende, for which the meteorite was named. The Allende meteorite’s destruction rained pieces of itself over the village and the surrounding area, scattering large rocks and tiny pebbles alike across a massive strewn field of at least 30 miles. Pieces of Allende are still being found to this very day.
📸 Pieces of the Allende Meteorite
THE LARGEST CARBONACEOUS CHONDRITE
The importance of the Allende meteorite can’t be easily overstated, with Allende often referred to as “the best-studied meteorite in history.” NASA was on the ground within two days to collect samples, with the first writings on Allende published just three weeks later. The excitement among the scientists was shared by the local villagers, with children filling candy bags full of the tiny pebbles that Allende had thrown across their village.
The Allende meteorite is the largest carbonaceous chondrite meteorite yet known to science. Carbonaceous chondrites are made up of CAIs, or calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions. These inclusions are composed of minerals that formed as the solar system took shape. As the protoplanetary disk of gas that surrounded the sun began to cool, it condensed into these minerals. This makes the Allende meteorite one of the oldest objects on Earth.
📸 A cross-section of the Allende Meteorite
Carbonaceous chondrites are ordered into eight different classifications, with Allende classified under the CV group. In addition to the CAIs, this group generally contains larger chondrules, about 1 millimeter in diameter.
Chondrules are made of silicate minerals and can be glassy or crystalline. It is suggested that they were created by the flash heating and rapid cooling of dust in the early solar system and that the chondrules then gradually accreted together.
The material within a chondrule can be dated back to the birth of our solar system and thought to be the building blocks of our planets.
The Allende meteorite still continues to yield new scientific discoveries. In 2020, scientists discovered proteins of extraterrestrial origin lodged within the rock. Previously, only simple amino acids had been found in meteorites. This discovery in Allende and the Acfer 086 meteorite mark the first time that a more complex protein formation has been found. The presence of iron within the protein chain suggests it’s capable of breaking down H2O when charged with photons, a process that under the right circumstances could generate basic life.
This presence of a protein chain within the meteorite is a revolutionary discovery. The material within Allende is millions of years older than the oldest known life forms on Earth, lending credence to the theory that life didn’t originate on Earth, rather it arrived here encased within falling meteorites. For now, it remains a point of speculation, but this discovery of a small protein chain within the Allende meteorite challenges basic assumptions we hold about the origin of life on this planet.
Front of the Specimen Card
Back of the Specimen Card
Bevan AWR, Laeter JR de. Meteorites: A Journey through Space and Time. Smithsonian Institution Press in association with the University of New South Wales Press; 2002.
Jarosewich, Eugene., Roy S. Clarke, and Julie N. Barrows. The Allende Meteorite Reference Sample. Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987. Print.
Mason, Brian (Brian Harold), and Stuart Ross Taylor. Inclusions in the Allende Meteorite. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982. Print.
McCoy, Timothy J., and Catherine M. Corrigan. “The Allende Meteorite: Landmark and Cautionary Tale.” Meteoritics & Planetary Science 56.1 (2021): 5–7. Web.
McGeoch, Malcolm. W, Sergei Dikler, and Julie E. M McGeoch. “Hemolithin: a Meteoritic Protein Containing Iron and Lithium.” (2020): n. pag. Web.