To enable scientists to refer to individual meteorites, there must be a nomenclature system in place. So meteorites are named after the localities where they fall, but in the desert, where there are few distinguishing geological features, meteorites are named after the designated grid in which they are found; they are assigned sequential numbers. A small sample of the current offering (which was removed from the reverse side) is currently undergoing analysis by Dr. Carl Agee, the Director of the Institute of Meteoritics and among the world’s foremost experts in meteorite classification. As this meteorite was found in the North West African grid of the Sahara Desert, it will be assigned a name that commences “Northwest Africa” (NWA) followed by a unique number. The findings by Dr. Agee and his team indicating the meteorite type are peer reviewed by scientists on the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society. Upon a consensus of the specimen’s petrography, geochemistry, type and classification, the meteorite is officially named and published in the Meteoritical Bulletin — the journal of record and bible of all meteorites.

The peer review process is nearly complete. “This is an H5 chondrite”, said Dr. Agee. “I’m just waiting to get the assigned NWA number; we should have it very soon”.

This triangular mass is all about the regmaglypts which form during a meteorite’s fiery passage through Earth’s atmosphere after traveling at a cosmic velocity of approximately 12 miles per second. The amount of frictional heating which occurs while the meteorite is burning through the atmosphere results in the meteorite’s exterior surface becoming molten, and as a result of air flow, it ablates off the mass. What’s striking about the current example, resulting in an extremely rare presentation, is that the regmaglypts are unusually large — up to 3.5 inches in length. The mass evokes a textured artifact from an archeological dig. And it is an artifact...but of an asteroid that once existed in the early solar system between Jupiter and Mars, an asteroid older than Earth itself. The reverse reveals the cut window from where the classification specimen was removed. A variegated walnut-hued matrix filled with metalflake is seen — a feature diagnostic in the identification of a meteorite, and in this instance, of a meteorite that is an exquisite extraterrestrial sculptural form. Accompanied by a custom armature.

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.

228 x 273 x 119mm (9 x 10.75 x 4.66 in.) and 8.974 kg (19.75 lbs)

Please note: on 12-February 2022 the Meteoritical Society named this meteorite North West Africa (NWA) 14629 and confirmed it is an H5 chondrite.

Macovich Collection of Meteorites, New York
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