[Photograph courtesy Elmar Buchner via National Geographic]
“Known as the “Iron Man,” the 22-pound (10-kilogram) figure is likely a Buddhist god. Seated, he wears a large swastika on his midsection—a good-luck symbol in Buddhism.
In 1938 a team of Nazis traveling in Tibet came across the statue and—possibly intrigued by the familiar bent-armed cross—brought it back to Germany. There, the “Iron Man” remained in a private collection in Munich until 2007, when the statue became available for study.
Since then, Elmar Buchner of the Planetology Institute at Stuttgart University has been analyzing the Buddhist statue, which is thought to hail from 11th-century Tibet. Buchner says the statue was carved from a meteorite that landed somewhere between Mongolia and Siberia roughly 15,000 years ago.
Among the clues is the sculpture’s telltale mineral content and structure, which give it away as a kind of meteorite called an ataxite. “It is rich in nickel, it is rich in cobalt. Less than 0.1 percent of all meteorites and less than 1 percent of iron meteorites are ataxites … It is the rarest type of meteorite you can find,” Buchner told the BBC.
No doubt the figure was dear to the artist who sculpted it, but what is it worth today? Its status as the only known human figure carved from a meteorite may give it a value of $20,000, according to Buchner. But, he said in a statement, “if our estimation of its age is correct and [the sculpting] is nearly a thousand years old, it could be invaluable.”
Update, October 25: A new paper—citing features inconsitent with Buddha statues, circa A.D. 1000—suggests the statue in question was created in the 20th century. The report does, however, agree that the figure was carved from a meteorite.”
Iron meteorite on Mars
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found an iron meteorite on Mars, the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet. The pitted, basketball-size object is mostly made of iron and nickel. Readings from spectrometers on the rover determined this composition. Opportunity used its panoramic camera to take the images used in this approximately true-color composite on the rover’s 339th Martian day, or sol (6 January 2005).
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
NASA and University Researchers Find a Clue to How Life Turned Left.
“Researchers analyzing meteorite fragments that fell on a frozen lake in Canada have developed an explanation for the origin of life’s handedness – why living things only use molecules with specific orientations. The work also gave the strongest evidence to date that liquid water inside an asteroid leads to a strong preference of left-handed over right-handed forms of some common protein amino acids in meteorites. The result makes the search for extraterrestrial life more challenging.
“Our analysis of the amino acids in meteorite fragments from Tagish Lake gave us one possible explanation for why all known life uses only left-handed versions of amino acids to build proteins,” said Dr. Daniel Glavin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Glavin is lead author of a paper on this research to be published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.”
In 1911, an Egyptian dog was allegedly hit and killed by a meteorite fragment. The rock was later identified as a piece of Mars.
“The rock sample from the mineral collection of the Museo di Storia Naturale in Florence was unearthed in the Koryak Mountains in Russia and found to include grains of icosahedrite, the first quasicrystalline mineral to be discovered in nature. Analysis of the oxygen isotope abundances in the rock indicate it is a fragment of a meteorite formed at the formation of the solar system over 4.5 billion years ago. Credit: Luca Bindi”
“A rare and exotic mineral, so unusual that it was thought impossible to exist, came to Earth on a meteorite, according to an international team of researchers led by Princeton University scientists. The discovery provides evidence for the extraterrestrial origins of the world’s only known sample of a naturally occurring quasicrystal.
Found in a rock collected in a remote corner of far eastern Russia, the natural quasicrystal was most likely formed during the early days of the solar system, roughly 4.5 billion years ago, making the mineral perhaps older than the Earth itself, according to the research team. The results, which come three years after the team identified the mineral as the first natural quasicrystal, recently were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The finding is important evidence that quasicrystals can form in nature under astrophysical conditions, and provides evidence that this phase of matter can remain stable over billions of years,” said physicist Paul Steinhardt, the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton and one of the leaders of the research.
Although quasicrystals are solid minerals that look quite normal on the outside, their inner structure makes them fascinating to scientists. Instead of the regularly repeating clusters of atoms seen in most crystals, quasicrystals contain a more subtle and intricate atomic arrangement involving two or more repeating clusters. As a result, a quasicrystal’s atoms can be arranged in ways that are not commonly found in crystals, such as the shape of a 20-sided icosahedron with the symmetry of a soccer ball.
The concept of quasicrystals — along with the term — was first introduced in 1984 by Steinhardt and Dov Levine, both then at the University of Pennsylvania. The first synthetic quasicrystal, a combination of aluminum and manganese, was reported in 1984 by Israeli materials scientist Dan Shechtman and colleagues at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, a finding for which Shechtman won the 2011 Nobel Prize.”
Read full story here.