Million Dollar Meteorites of 2005

Author  By Greg Hupé
 (Meteorite Magazine, February 2006)

2005: The year of the Million Dollar Meteorites! First discovered in August was NWA 3163, a Lunar Feldspathic Granulite. It weighed in at 1,634 grams, making it the world’s second largest lunar meteorite discovered to date and the largest lunar meteorite of its type. When I first purchased it in Morocco, I believed it to be either an unusual diogenite or eucrite due to its odd transparent greenish fusion crust, among other misleading features.

After the type sample was analyzed in the laboratory using a microprobe, I received a telephone call from Dr. Tony Irving, the lead scientist from the University of Washington. He stated that the stone, “…was not an aubrite…”
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NWA 3163 – 1121 gram main mass.
NWA 3163 – 1121 gram main mass.
He purposely left a long pause before finishing his sentence, all the while my mind racing in anticipation. He finished with, “…it’s a LUNAR!” My heart nearly jumped out of my chest with astonishment. I could not believe what I just
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74.1 gram slice of NWA 3163.
74.1 gram slice of NWA 3163.
  heard so I asked, “Are you sure it is lunar?” He exclaimed, “Yes, we have completed several tests that all lead to a lunar classification.”

NWA 3163 is made up of maskelynite with smaller amounts of pyroxene, olivine, chromite and other minerals. This exceedingly rare type of lunar rock is known from small clasts found in a few Apollo 15, 16 and 17 samples. It is a fine-grained breccia originated from mostly momomict olivine gabbro or diabase lithologies. Not only is the classification awesome, but also it has neat regmaglypts and flow lines that look like finger marks imbedded on the exterior. They resemble a handprint as if an alien being had grasped a ball of clay and threw it to Earth, later to be discovered by a wondering nomad.
The second Million Dollar Meteorite discovered in 2005, is the now famous 1,430 pound “King of Pallasites”, the new Brenham main mass. It was dug up on a farm in Kansas by meteorite hunter Steve Arnold and his partner Phil Mani, in October. They came up with a plan months before the discovery and implemented the use of new, high-tech equipment that could penetrate the earthen depths to locate the monster at 10 feet below the surface.

In December, I flew to Texas to meet with Phil to see his and Steve’s awesome find in person. I brought along my 1,121 gram main mass of NWA 3163 so we could play some Show-and-Tell and get a photo of the two history
making meteorites together. Unfortunately Steve could not be there to participate in the celebration as he was in the field hunting more Brenham stones.

Before I could view the Brenham main mass in its current location, Phil called Steve on his cell phone so he could hear my expressions when I first saw it, and boy did he! At around three feet across and just about as high, the hefty oriented 1,400-pounder is simply fantastic to view in person. I was awestruck. It is simply remarkable! There are huge olivine inclusions that are visible from the outside, some approximately 100mm across. Equally, Phil, Steve and I were congratulating each other for our individual history making discoveries.
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Phil Mani (left), Greg Hupe (right, holding NWA 3163 main mass)
Phil Mani (left) and Greg Hupe (right).
There were many “Ohh’s”, “Ahh’s”, “Wow’s” and “Congratulations” being exclaimed by all three of us. After hanging up the phone with Steve, I was able to inspect the monster pallasite a little further along with several other relatively smaller individuals. We acted like we were kids in a toy store. It was a very exciting experience. Not only is it extraordinary to have two Million Dollar Meteorites discovered in one year, but also to bring them together in one location is unheard of.

There is quite a size difference between the two Million Dollar Meteorites as can be seen in the photo! The Brenham requires a forklift whereas my NWA 3163 lunar can easily be held by hand. They are both impressive in their own rights. I wonder what exciting discoveries myself and other meteorite enthusiasts from around the world will make next year!

Happy hunting,
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