Space

Meteorite "Space Gems" Formed By Violent Celestial Collision

Pallasites have been a subject of study by scientists for two hundred years

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A tiny fraction of meteorites on earth contain strikingly beautiful, translucent, olive-green crystals embedded in an iron-nickel matrix. Called pallasites, these "space gems" have fascinated scientists since they were first identified as originating from outer space more than 200 years ago.

Now a new study published this week in Science (Nov. 16) shows that their origins were more dramatic than first thought. Using a carbon dioxide laser, a magnetic field, and a sophisticated recording device, a team of geophysicists, led by John Tarduno at the University of Rochester, has shown that the pallasites were likely formed when a smaller asteroid crashed into a planet-like body about 30 times smaller than earth, resulting in a mix of materials that make up the distinctive meteorites.