Page 25 - WCM 2022 Winter
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 Most meteorites are either incinerated during
their descent through Earth’s atmosphere, shatter into thousands of tiny pieces upon impact with
our planet’s surface, or fall in areas that are extraordinarily difficult to access. Dr. Henning Haack, a cosmochemist and associate researcher with the MMGM, states that most meteorite material goes straight into the oceans. “If they do fall on land,” Haack concedes, “they’re rarely found, unless they fall through the roof of a car or a house. If they don’t, finding them is nearly impossible.”
But somehow, and on incredibly rare occasions, larger specimens survive. And when they do, they can lay dormant and undiscovered for centuries, or perhaps millennia, as the elements and seasons quietly erode all evidence of their once dramatic arrival.
The Rarest Substance on Earth
In 1976, NASA’s Viking probes landed on the surface of Mars for a groundbreaking mission, gathering information to help determine the chemical and isotopic makeup of the inhospitable Martian atmosphere. Years passed until finally, in 1995, scientists’ suspicions of certain exotic space rocks were proven correct. Contained within the rocks were tiny volumes of gas that perfectly matched those of the extraordinary chemical and isotopic markers of the Martian atmosphere. This incredible discovery proved
that meteorites from Mars had made the epic and unlikely journey to Earth. But of all the samples since proven to be of Martian origin, only approximately 575 pounds is known to exist today.
In February of 2021, a Mauritian meteorite and desert truffle hunter discovered a meteorite in the salt mining center of Taoudenni, a remote region of Mali just over 650 km north of Timbuktu. Understanding it to be special among the many desert rocks, he reached out to Darryl Pitt, a celebrated purveyor of meteorites who acquires these types of specimens for museums and private collectors. Pitt agreed that the meteorite was unique, and to pursue his suspicions of its planet of origin, immediately requested it be sent to him.
In the rare event of a Mars rock discovery, a rigorous process of scientific analysis and classification must be applied to prove its Martian origins. Dr. Carl Agee is the director of the Institute of Meteoritics
at the University of New Mexico, and one of the world’s most renowned classification experts of Martian meteorites. When Pitt acquired the rock, he sent a small sample to Dr. Agee, hoping to confirm his suspicions that it was of Martian origin. After extensive analysis, Dr. Agee confirmed the meteorite was indeed from the planet Mars, and that its miraculous size - 32 pounds - made it the largest single known Martian meteorite on Earth.
Taoudenni 002 pictured with (left to right) MMGM Curator Dr.Carl Francis,MMGM Director Barbra Barrett,Dr.R.AileenYingst from the Planetary Science Institute, meteorite purveyor Darryl Pitt, and MMGM Co-founder Dr. Larry Stifler.

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