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NHM buys new meteorite

Dr Caroline Smith, meteorite curator at the NHM, with the Ivuna meteorite

Sara Russell of the Natural History Museum has reported the purchase of the Ivuna meteorite in June 2008.

Geoscientist Online 7 July 2008

Joe McCall writes: Speaking of the Natural History Museum's recent purchase of the Ivuna CI meteorite, Sara Russell told Geoscientist Online: “The purchase came about because an anonymous American meteorite collector owned the sample and wanted to sell it to fund his retirement. Our meteorite curator Caroline Smith (picture) went over to New York to collect the stone and the handover occurred at the American Museum of Natural History.

"It's an important sample because it is the most pristine CI chondrite- it is the only one observed to have fallen since 1900 that is of reasonable size. Also it has been kept in a nitrogen atmosphere for the last 50 years, which has really helped to keep it fresh. This is particularly important for CI chondrites as they react very easily with the atmosphere.  In particular, the sulphides react with atmospheric water and make sulphates. I believe this is the largest sample of Ivuna in a public collection.”

The new addition to the NHM's collection, close-up The CI carbonaceous chondrites (I is after Ivuna, because the "O" of the first, Orgueil, which fell in France in 18641, could not be used as it would duplicate the CO type usage for Ornans fall, France 1868) are of critical importance for research on the solar system.  They are the most primitive material from asteroids that reaches us, and only five are known, with the exception of three unconfirmed reports from Antarctica,2 (and these would have suffered some surface weathering even in Antractica) and one of the five, Revelstoke, Canada, weighs only about 1 gram! Ivuna is one of two stones that fell on the west shore of Lake Rukwa, Tanzania, in 1938. New hi-tech methods of exploration of meteorites appear regularly, and most of these are non-destructive. This purchase will provide material for such research for years to come.

It is also an invaluable addition to the Museum’s already excellent display collection.


  1. McCall,GJH. The Orgeueil meteorite fraud. Geoscientist 16(1); 6-7,10,11
  2. Kojima, H. 2005. The history of Japanese Antarctic meteorites. In McCall. GJH, Bowden, AJ, Howarth, RJ, eds., The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections”. SP256 Geological Society,London; 291-303