Meteorite of the month: Springwater pallasite

Posted: January 25, 2012 - 10:52 , by ROM
Collections, Natural History, Meteorites, Mineralogy | Comments () | Comment

specimen image of Springwater pallasite meteorite

The world's largest specimen of the Springwater pallasite meteorite.

This is the first blog in a new series, Meteorite of the Month, that will feature meteorite specimens from the museums outstanding collection. We will also be putting up a Mineral and a Gem each month so there’s something for everybody.

At 52 kilograms this is by far the largest specimen of the Springwater pallasite in existence.  It is currently on display in the Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth’s Treasures.  The former record holder is approximately 20 kilograms and is in the position of the Natural History Museum, London. Pallasites are an exceedingly rare type of meteorite, only 84 are currently known out of over 40,000 meteorites in world collections. They are typically unassuming in appearance on the exterior. Yet inside they are a striking combination of the chrome-green mineral olivine set in an iron-nickel matrix. Their origins are still the subject of great debate. They may have formed deep within an asteroid, a small, moon-like body, and may represent the boundary layer between the core and mantle of such a body. As such they are thought to be analogs of what the very deep interior of our planet might be like. Research being undertaken at the ROM on pallasites, and the Springwater in particular, will contribute to our understanding of these enigmatic objects.

Only 3 pallasites have been found in Canada: the Springwater from Saskatchewan; the Giroux from Manitoba and the Southampton from Ontario. The Giroux and Southampton specimens will also be featured in future Meteorite of the Month blogs so watch for those. The ROM owns the main masses – the largest pieces – of all 3 which are also on display in the Teck suite of galleries: Earth’s Treasures.

Three pieces of Springwater, with an aggregate weight of 67.6 kilograms, where originally discovered in a farmers field near the town of Biggar, Saskatchewan in 1931. Shortly there after they were brought to the attention of the American meteorite dealer Harvey Nininger who subsequently bought the pieces. Nininger later cut most of these samples and distributed them to museums around the world. Acting on a hunch, meteorite hunters returned to the original discovery site in 2009 and, as the result of intensive searches in the area, recovered over 100 kilograms of new material, the 52 kilogram piece being the largest single find. With the very generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust and the Moveable Cultural Property program of the Canadian Ministry of Heritage the ROM was able to acquire this remarkable piece.