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Seymchan Pallasite Slice

Meteorites are rare and wondrous things, fragments of worlds other than our own.

The weight of gold that has been mined on Earth far exceeds the total weight of all meteorites in the world’s collections. Among the rarest of meteorites are pallasites, in which translucent yellow or green crystals of the gem mineral olivine occur embedded in crystalline nickel-iron metal.

Photo by Iris Langheinrich, pallasite slice on display in the Window on Our World, click image to enlarge.

In their raw state, pallasite meteorites are far from attractive. Their exteriors are blackened by the intense heat of entry through Earth’s atmosphere, or rusted by centuries embedded in soil. But cut into thin slices they can be stunningly beautiful.

Their structure is unlike anything found on Earth, but perhaps resembles what lies deep beneath our feet. The Earth has an iron core surrounded by a thick layer, the mantle, composed of olivine. Pallasite meteorites are from the core-mantle boundary of a small rocky planet that formed very early in the solar system but was later destroyed by planetary collision. These windows into another world give us a tantalizing glimpse of the deep interior of our own planet.

This particular pallasite slice, 46cm wide by 35cm high and weighing 3.45kg, is from a large meteorite found 150km northwest of the town of Seymchan, in the Magadan district of north-eastern Siberia. It was acquired by the Ulster Museum in 2009 and is on display on the upper level of Window on our World. More meteorites are on display in the Origins gallery of the Nature Zone.