OUT OF THIS WORLD: ROM acquires largest piece of rare meteorite

TORONTO - The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has acquired the largest piece of the Springwater pallasite, a rare a...

TORONTO - The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has acquired the largest piece of the Springwater pallasite, a rare and scientifically important meteorite that was first discovered near Springwater, SK, in 1931. The new discovery of the almost 53-kg, 4.5-billion-year-old specimen was made in 2009 after a re-examination of the original fall site.

There have only been three pallasite meteorites ever found within Canada: the Giroux in Manitoba, the Southampton in Ontario, and the Springwater in Saskatchewan. With the addition of this acquisition, the ROM now houses all three main masses of known Canadian pallasite meteorites.

Pallasites are mostly composed of roughly equal amounts of an iron-nickel alloy matrix and a green-brown coloured silicate mineral olivine. They once formed part of larger asteroids that were likely created 4.5 billion years ago by the same processes and from the same materials as the other planetary bodies in our solar system. Unlike most meteorites that eventually fall to Earth, pallasites represent very deep regions of asteroids, making their mineral composition very similar to the core-mantle boundary of our own planet. This region of the Earth is inaccessible to researchers therefore pallasites are science's best source of information about the depths of our planet and on the history of the solar system.

Pallasites are extremely rare. Out of the over 35,000 meteorites known currently worldwide, only 84 are presently recognized as pallasites. Three masses of the Springwater pallasite meteorite were originally found in 1931. At the time, the largest mass, weighing 20 kg, was acquired by the Natural History Museum in London, England. In 2009, a team returned to the site and successfully recovered 100 kg of new material.

The meteorite is currently being put through a number of tests to enable scientists to gain a better understanding of pallasites in general and their relation to other varieties of meteorites. The meteorite will eventually be on display in the Vale Inco Limited Gallery of Minerals, inside the Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth's Treasures.

If a personal visit is not feasible, enjoy a brief virtual visit or podcast at www.ROM.on.ca/exhibitions/nhistory/Teck.php.


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