M is for Meteorite

Today’s post is about LEGO, and it isn’t. Space exploration is a big theme in the LEGO world, and one of my favorite sets is actually the City Spaceport (60080). I love the astronaut Minifigures, as well as the rocket scientists that came with it. That idea of exploring space is what inspired my Minifigure photo today.

Really old things always blow my mind. Now, when I say really old, I mean REALLY old. On my recent trip to New York, I acquired a chunk of space debris that saw the birth of our solar system. It is as old as the Sun, and it is sitting in the palm of my hand. Imagine it for a minute, this chunk of iron and nickel is 4,500,000,000 years old.

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My tiny fragment of the Nantan meteorite.

My particular piece of Sol’s history is from the Nantan meteorite that crashed in China circa 1516. It’s fragmentation and fall through the atmosphere are documented in China’s historical documents from the time. It is still the largest meteorite to hit the ground in Asia. The meteorite fragments were largely left untouched until the 1950s, when China went searching for sources of iron to make steel. They collected 9500 kg worth of fragments from around the Nantan region of China. It turned out that though the meteorite was mostly iron, it contained too much nickel to be smelted. This alloy made the melting point of the meteorites too high for common smelting techniques of the time. I suppose this is why pieces of the Nantan meteorite are so readily available at such a low cost. My piece might not be super rare, but just holding something so old that is also of extraterrestrial origin makes this one of my favorite possessions.

Meteorites are meteors that have passed through our atmosphere and have hit the surface of the Earth. Meteors in turn are small chunks of asteroids. Asteroids are debris leftover from accretion (the process of planet formation). Basically, they are the space rocks that did not become part of a planet. The Nantan meteorite probably originated in the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter.

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LEGO Minifigure astronaut with a real meteorite fragment.

I suppose I am science geek at heart, thus why I get so excited about a pebble from outer space. My question for you today is: are you equally amazed by super old and/or extraterrestrial things? If so, what story do you have to share?

This post is part of the April A-to-Z blogging challenge. If you want to read more about the challenge, you can click here to visit their website. As tomorrow is not a challenge day, be sure to check back on Monday for another LEGO-inspired post, this time starting with the letter “N”.

Until next time,

-T.N.B.

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