Museum of Natural History: New Hall for Ancient Meteorites
Museum of Natural History
Chicken Little was right! Everyday about 100 tons of space
stuff falls on us from above—undetected as dust grains. Sometimes
a rock or pebble of significant size will fall, and once in
a while something enormous crashes down. Embedded in these
sizable extraterrestrial treasures, scientists find striking
facts about our planet, the sun and history of our solar system.
To showcase the latest advances in meteorite discovery and
interpretation, the American Museum of Natural History shut
its Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites some six months ago for
a complete renovation. “The spectacular meteorites displayed
in the new hall tell of the beginnings of our solar system,” Dr.
Denton Ebel said, adding that meteorites intercepting our earth
add to our understanding of our origins.
focal point of the hall is the gargantuan Ahnighito (pronounced
ah-na-HEET-o) on a raised platform, a 34-ton meteorite that
fell to earth at Cape York, Greenland, the largest meteorite
on display at any museum. “Bring kids as young as four here
and tell them that huge rock fell from space, and they’ll say
wow,” said Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, associate curator, when asked
how old kids have to be to get something out of visiting the
than 130 meteorites are on display, including five extremely
rare Martian meteorites, which are among the only samples of
this planet on earth. Three moon rocks brought back by astronauts
in 1971 and 1972 are also on display. Compelling also is the
Allende meteorite that is more than 4.5 billion years old and
embedded with even older diamonds.
new displays are in a circle around Ahnighito. They illustrate
what meteorites tell us about the origin of the solar system,
followed by the formation of planets. Off the main room, a
small theater shows a video on meteorites narrated by Sally
Ride, the first American woman in space.
final section is devoted to the hazards of things falling from
the sky. Recently in 1992, a football-sized meteor streaked
through the sky and crashed into a parked car in Peekskill,
New York. Today however meteorites are low on the list of life’s
hours, daily 10-4:45; The Rose Center remains open Fridays
until 8:45 PM.
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