On the road: Meteorites at the 2013 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, February 15, 2013

The spectacular, finely grained iron meteorite Chinga, found in Russia in 1911, can be cut and polished like a mirror. Anne Black/Impactika specimen. // All images by David J. Eicher
I arrived in Tucson, the astronomy capitol of the United States, on Wednesday afternoon, February 13. After recovering from the travel and checking into my room, I headed over for a bit of the closing moments of Wednesday’s Tucson Gem and Mineral Show activities. Accompanied by my dad, John, and meeting up with Michael and Holley Bakich, we enjoyed a bit of the atmosphere in Tucson before my dad and I spent the early evening in a meeting about the website Mindat.org. This incredible research for mineralogists and mineral collectors provides tens of thousands of pages and images about all sorts of mineral species. As I mentioned to many at the meeting, minerals and mineral collecting are aspects of planetary science and the crossroads where astronomy and geology meet. I think that many rock enthusiasts are also interested, or potentially interested, in observing the sky. We’ll test out that idea on Saturday night when the magazine, along with a multitude of partners, hosts a stargaze at Pima Community College’s East Campus. (Jolyon Ralph, the founder of Mindat and its driving force, is known to Astronomy readers from his article in the November 2012 issue, which explained mineralogy in our profile of Earth as a planet.)

Believed by many to be the world's most beautiful pallasite, the Esquel pallasite from Argentina is represented magnificently with this huge slice. Michael Farmer specimen.
But the action on Wednesday night was a brief taste. The real activity began on Thursday morning, the 14th, when we headed over to see large numbers of meteorites and meteorite dealers at the Hotel Tucson City Center — formerly the InnSuites, and everyone still calls it that. There, and at several other surrounding hotels strewn about the city, lay a network of meteorite dealers with fantastic specimens, from simple irons for $10 apiece to as-yet uncataloged lunar meteorites the size of softballs. Dad and I ran into several old friends: Martin Ratcliffe, who writes Astronomy’s “Sky this Month” section, popped into one of the meteorite rooms as we were busily photographing specimens. And meteorite collectors and dealers John Humphries and Jana Becker were there. So, too, was Anne Black, the ever-so-pleasant French dealer who now resides in Colorado. Anne’s company, Impactika, has one of the most incredible collections for sale of historic meteorite specimens, thin sections of all manner of meteorites, and one-of-a-kind meteoritic treasures. We saw amazing pieces of the Almahata Sitta meteorite (recovered pieces of asteroid 2008 TC3), a spectacular block of mirror-like Chinga, and rare pieces with incredible historical provenance, including Albion, Hugoton, and Lombard.

Next door was the room of the Meteorite Men, Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold, which was really primarily Geoff’s Aerolite Meteorites business. Huge treasures lay in that room, as well, and included incredibly sculptured Sikhote-Alins, impressive slices of Muonionalusta, sparkling Seymchan pallasites, recent rarities like Whitecourt and Buzzard Coulee from Canada, and impressive whole stones of a variety of types. Also at the InnSuites, we encountered Mike Farmer’s incredible room of specimens. These included incredibly huge slices of Esquel and other pallasites  beautifully lit from behind like golden windowpanes, rich Camel Dongas with inky black fusion crust, chunks of the recent martian meteorite Tissint, and many others. It was truly overwhelming.

The German dealer Karl Moritz, who goes by the name of Mo’s Meteorites and Minerals, had a breathtaking display. It included a phenomenal (18kg!) slice of Mundrabilla, Cape York slices, and historic rarities like L’Aigle and Château-Renard. It was an incredible day. We must have looked at 100,000 rocks, and we stumbled into the courtyard filled with dinosaurs and a lone great white shark. Those great figures may end up in a museum, but they were appreciated by everyone who had the chance to glimpse them from a sunny, cool Tucson with highs in the low 60s.

Stay tuned.

For all images from this trip, visit the Online Reader Gallery.

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