Meteorites are fascinating objects that originate from space and land on Earth. They are essentially rocks from other planets, moons, or asteroids that have been ejected from their surface by impacts and then traveled through space until they intersect with the Earth's atmosphere. As they enter the atmosphere, they heat up and create a bright streak of light known as a meteor, or shooting star. A small percentage of these meteors survive their journey through the atmosphere and impact the Earth's surface, where they are then classified as meteorites.
There are three main types of meteorites: stony, iron, and stony-iron. Each type has its unique characteristics, and understanding these differences can provide valuable insights into the history and evolution of our universe.
Stony meteorites are the most common type of meteorite, accounting for approximately ~94% of all meteorite falls. They are composed of silicate minerals, such as olivine, pyroxene, and plagioclase, and are typically light in color and have a rocky appearance.
Within the stony meteorite category, there are two subtypes: chondrites and achondrites.
Chondrites are the most primitive type of meteorite and are believed to be the oldest materials in our solar system. They are composed of small, spherical mineral grains called chondrules, which are thought to have formed in the early solar system when dust and gas collided and melted. Chondrites can be further divided into three groups based on their mineral and chemical composition: carbonaceous, ordinary, and enstatite chondrites.
Carbonaceous chondrites are the most primitive and contain organic compounds and water-bearing minerals. They are of great interest to astrobiologists as they may contain the building blocks of life.
Ordinary chondrites are the most common type of meteorite and are similar in composition to the Earth's mantle. They are further divided into three subgroups: H, L, and LL, based on their iron content.
Enstatite chondrites are rare and have a unique mineral composition that distinguishes them from other chondrites. They are believed to have formed in a region of the solar system with very low oxygen and high temperatures.
Achondrites, on the other hand, are stony meteorites that do not contain chondrules. They are believed to have formed through melting or differentiation processes on larger bodies in the early solar system, such as asteroids or the Moon. They can be further classified into several groups based on their mineral and chemical composition, including eucrites, howardites, and diogenites.
Iron meteorites are composed almost entirely of metallic iron-nickel alloy and are the second most common type of meteorite, accounting for approximately 5% of all meteorite falls. They are typically heavy and dense and have a metallic appearance.
Iron meteorites can be further divided into two subtypes: hexahedrites and octahedrites.
Hexahedrites are rare and contain only small amounts of nickel. They have a characteristic crystal structure and are believed to have formed in the outer regions of the solar system.
Octahedrites, on the other hand, are the more common type of iron meteorite and contain significant amounts of nickel. They have a characteristic Widmanstätten pattern, a unique pattern of lines and shapes that can be seen when they are cut and polished.
The Widmanstätten pattern is named after the Austrian scientist Alois von Widmanstätten, who first observed it in 1808. He noticed that certain iron meteorites had a peculiar pattern when they were etched with acid. The pattern consists of a series of interlocking lines and shapes that resemble a spider web or a snowflake. This pattern is caused by the crystalline structure of the meteorite's iron-nickel alloy.
When meteorites form in space, they cool very slowly over millions of years. As a result, the iron-nickel alloy in the meteorite is able to form large crystals that are visible to the naked eye. These crystals are oriented in specific directions and are interlocked with one another, creating the Widmanstätten pattern.
The pattern can only be seen when the meteorite is cut and polish-etched. When the meteorite is cut at a specific angle, the crystal structure is revealed, and the pattern emerges. The pattern is often used as a diagnostic tool for identifying meteorites. The presence of the Widmanstätten pattern is a strong indication that the rock is a meteorite, and not a terrestrial rock.
The Widmanstätten pattern is not only visually stunning but also provides valuable information about the history and composition of the meteorite. By studying the pattern, scientists can determine the cooling rate of the meteorite and its chemical composition. This information can help scientists understand the conditions that existed in the early solar system and how it evolved over time.
In addition to iron meteorites, the Widmanstätten pattern can also be observed in pallasites, a type of stony-iron meteorite. Pallasites are composed of both silicate minerals and metallic iron-nickel alloy. The silicate minerals are interspersed throughout the iron-nickel alloy, creating a unique and striking pattern.
The discovery of the Widmanstätten pattern was a major breakthrough in the study of meteorites. It provided scientists with a new tool for identifying and studying these extraterrestrial rocks. Today, the pattern is still widely used in the field of meteoritics and has led to many new discoveries and insights about our solar system.
In recent years, new technologies have allowed scientists to study the Widmanstätten pattern in even greater detail. For example, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) can be used to create high-resolution images of the pattern. This technique has revealed new details about the crystal structure and composition of meteorites.
The study of meteorites and the Widmanstätten pattern continues to be an active area of research. Scientists are constantly discovering new meteorites and using the pattern to learn more about the early solar system. The field of meteoritics has come a long way since Alois von Widmanstätten first observed the pattern in 1808, but the beauty and intrigue of these extraterrestrial rocks continues to captivate us to this day.
Finally, stony-iron meteorites are the rarest type of meteorite, comprising less than 1% of all meteorite falls. These meteorites are composed of both silicate minerals and metallic iron-nickel alloy, giving them a unique appearance and composition.
Stony-iron meteorites are believed to have formed at the boundary between the core and mantle of differentiated bodies, such as asteroids or planets. This makes them valuable in understanding the processes that shape the evolution of our solar system.
One subtype of stony-iron meteorites is the pallasites, which contain beautiful, gem-like crystals of olivine embedded in a metallic matrix. Pallasites are highly prized by collectors and scientists alike for their stunning beauty and unique composition.
Another subtype is the mesosiderites, which have a mixture of metal and silicate materials in a chaotic pattern. Mesosiderites are thought to have formed through the collision and mixing of two or more different bodies in the early solar system.
Bejeti Meteorite Wallets
Bejeti is the first brand on Earth to create a wallet made entirely of meteorite; specifically, an iron-nickel meteorite with beautiful Widmanstätten patterning. The wallet is rare not only for the material it is derived from, but also because machining a large enough piece of iron meteorite to make the iconic wallet is incredibly difficult due to the non-homogenous nature of the material. Unlike human-made metals, meteorite has natural material veins, inclusions, and irregularities from its slow cooling through space, making finish machining such a compact design an engineering marvel.
“Voids” in the material itself can be discerned, while oxidation of high-iron content areas yield a glimpse of the meteor’s age. Billions of years travel through time and space are now perfected into an ultimate achievement of science, engineering, and artful design.
The world’s first and only meteorite wallet. Designed with You in mind.