To keep track of different meteorite specimens a nomenclature system had to be created, and this resulted in meteorites being named by a panel of scientists for the locality from where the meteorites were recovered. Meteorites are named after towns, cities and counties as well as lakes, rivers, mountains, streams and more. Where there is no distinct geographic feature — say in a desert — meteorites are named after the designated collection appended with specific number. So, NWA 869 is the 869th meteorite to be recovered, analyzed and published following its recovery in the North West African grid of the Sahara Desert. This sphere was fashioned from a meteorite found in the NWA 869 strewn field — among the largest documented meteorite showers of all time. The meteorite is a breccia, a rock composed of many small inclusions that have experienced different degrees of metamorphic heating within its parent asteroid. Some material (primitive type-3 chondrite fragments) largely escaped heating and still retain unmetamorphosed textures and compositions; other materials (type-6 chondrite fragments) have been extensively heated and recrystallized. Because it contains such fragments, NWA 869 is classified as an L3-6, the “L” indicating a relatively low amount of free iron.

The primarily milk-chocolate-hued matrix is dappled with billows of gray matrix, embellished with ochre accents and metallic flecks suspended throughout. Gazing into this specimen evokes a galaxy in miniature contained in a rock from interplanetary space that was later fashioned into a palm-sized sphere.

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.

59mm (2.33 in.) in diameter and 399.2g (0.75 lbs)
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