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Rare Meteorite Lands Permanently at UC Davis

, KQED Science | August 21, 2013 | 0 Comments
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A chunk of a rare meteorite is landing permanently at University of California, Davis. The university just acquired a piece of the rock, which fell in Northern California last year.

The main mass of the rare Sutter's Mill meteorite before it was divided up between five scientific institutions. (Linda Welzenbach/Smithsonian Institution)

The main mass of the rare Sutter’s Mill meteorite before it was divided up between five scientific institutions. (Linda Welzenbach/Smithsonian Institution)

Before the meteorite slammed into Earth it had been minding its own business in the solar system for more than 4.5 billion years. The meteorite’s age makes it rare and valuable. It contains dust from ancient stars that exploded — the same stuff that eventually formed our solar system.

“The reason that we’re excited about this meteorite is, [it] witnessed the beginning of the solar system,” said Qing-Zhu Yin, a geologist who specializes in meteorites at UC Davis. “If we want to unlock the secret of what happened 4 1/2 billion years ago leading to the formation of the solar system, this was a bystander from that point.”

UC Davis geology professor Qing-Zhu Yin holds a fragment of the Sutter's Mill meteorite, a different piece than the one UC Davis just acquired. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

UC Davis geology professor Qing-Zhu Yin holds a fragment of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite, a different piece than the one UC Davis just acquired. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

When the meteorite landed near Sutter’s Mill in April of last year, Yin and his students went to look for pieces of it. However, they didn’t find the largest piece until someone emailed Yin after attending a public lecture.

“When I saw it, [I thought] this is it,” Qin said.

This piece of the meteorite is being divided between five scientific institutions. Yin says Davis’s piece may be put on display in the future.

You can see renderings of the meteorite on YouTube.

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Category: Astronomy, Geology, News

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About the Author ()

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.