Details
It takes millions of years for the two major iron-nickel alloys of iron meteorites — kamacite and taenite — to crystallize into their characteristic latticework. This can occur only within an asteroid and the pattern seen here is diagnostic in the identification of iron meteorites. Meteorites from different parent bodies have distinct chemical compositions and varying cooling rates, resulting in different patterns (see lots 10, 13 and 38). In honor of Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten, who happened to be the second person to have noticed these structures, they were named Widmanstätten patterns. Researcher William Thompson, however, also noticed this pattern while living in Naples, Italy and wrote a scientific paper about the same in 1804 — four years before the Count’s observation. The Napoleonic Wars made it problematic for Thompson to be in contact with his English colleagues; he also had to flee Naples as a result of the war and died in Sicily.

The latticework seen in this partial slice is a choice example of a Gibeon meteorite’s fingerprint, a specimen delimited by three cut edges and a long arc of the meteorite’s natural external rim. Gibeon meteorites originated from the molten core of an asteroid located between Mars and Jupiter whose shattered remains are now part of the asteroid belt. A catastrophic impact with another asteroid resulted in the liberation of the core, sending what was to become the Gibeon mass into an Earth-crossing orbit where it wandered for millions of years before raining down in what is now the Kalahari Desert. Modern fashioning.

Christie's would like to thank Dr. Alan E. Rubin at the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles for his assistance in preparing this catalogue.

59 x 109 x 4mm (2.33 x 4.25 x 0.1 in.) and 90.0 grams (0.2 lbs)
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