Rare Cosmic ‘Mudball’ Meteorite Arrives At Chicago’s Field Museum

CHICAGO (CBS)– A rare cosmic mudball holds
the clues to how life began, and it has scientists at the Field Museum of Natural History
giddy with excitement.

While there is a sign that reads, “danger,” a CBS 2 camera
was allowed inside to see the lab where scientist Dr. Philip Heck
is now studying, what he calls a very pristine, meteorite.

“That means it hasn’t been changed much since it formed and
it’s essentially a time capsule from the beginning of the solar
system,” he said.

Called the “cosmic mudball,” the stony meteorite is carbon
rich, consisting of clay materials.

It weighs about four pounds and scientists say it smells like
Brussels sprouts.

It fell to earth just this spring in Costa Rica, it arrived at
the Field Museum this month and was donated by a private
collector.

“This is one of the most important falls in the past 50 years
and this is the main mass,” Heck said. “The biggest piece of
that particular fall.”

Heck said it was picked up rapidly, which is key, and placed in
a plastic bag. It’s extremely unusual that pieces like this 
survive atmospheric entry.

“It’s a pretty solid mudball, but it’s very fragile,”
Heck said. “Take a hammer to it and it will break into tiny
pieces.”

Heck is using several methods to study the meteorite, including
using a laser light to essentially get finger prints of the
minerals that occur in this rock. When not under observations
it’s preserved in liquid nitrogen.

“Essentially what we think is meteorites like this fell early
earth and delivered the building blocks of life on earth,” he
said. “We can compare meteorites to get a better picture of our
solar system. This is really what drives us… What is our solar
system made of… How did it form and what was there before the
solar system.”

Heck told CBS 2 several other pieces of the mudball are also at
the Field Museum and one is on public display.

He said this specimen holds the secrets that will be discovered
in the next 50 to 100 years by our generation of scientists and
future generations of scientists.

Source: FS – All – Science – News 2
Rare Cosmic ‘Mudball’ Meteorite Arrives At Chicago’s Field Museum