Meteorite Monday: Carbonaceous Chondrites

This post marks the first of, what I’m hoping to be many, a weekly series about various meteorites. I love space rocks as much as I love their terrestrial cousins because they recount the history of our solar system. In the simplest of terms meteorites are basically chunks of natural space debris (i.e., not from man made objects) that survived their descent through the earths atmosphere and the resulting collision. These objects come primarily from asteroids such as Vesta 4, but a few have been found of lunar and martian origin.

Allende, Mexico Carbonaceous Chondrite

Allende, Mexico Carbonaceous Chondrite

A carbonaceous chondrite is basically a big ball of space mud  that can contain up to 20% water (I’m not remembering where I read that, so that number may change when I find the source). They are fairly soft and don’t survive their sojourn on the earth to well. These chondrites also represent the most primitive matter drifting through the solar system and have undergone the least amount of  chemical and physical change when compared to ordinary chondrites. It’s estimated that they represent roughly 5% of the meteorites that are observed and collected upon entry to the atmosphere (1).

The Orgueil Meteorite

The Orgueil Meteorite from the Hoover study

As of last month a carbonaceous chondrite found itself in the center of a controversy when a NASA astrobiologist, Richard Hoover, declared that he found fossilized bacteria in a specimen discovered in the late 1800’s. I won’t go into his claims here because this isn’t  a biology blog and I don’t have the expertise to handle such a topic. If you’re really interested you can click here and read the abstract. Also a quick google search will bring up all the arguments for and against Hoover’s claims.

  1. Bischoff, A.; Geiger, T. (1995). “Meteorites for the Sahara: Find locations, shock classification, degree of weathering and pairing”. Meteoritics 30 (1): 113–122.

18 thoughts on “Meteorite Monday: Carbonaceous Chondrites

  1. Yay! I love the fact you’ve got time to blog again!

    Just learned something new, too! Why is it that every time carbonaceous chondrites have come up, everybody’s failed to mention they’ve got water in them? Science Channel FAIL.

    Oh, wait. I shouldn’t be surprised by that, should I?

    • You inspired to me to do some posts ahead of time so I can update my blog on a more regular basis 🙂

      As for the water in the CC, I’m not terribly sure if that number is correct, but I know some water is found in them. I’m still trying to find that 20% source though.

  2. So are these metallic in composition at all? Could they be found with a metal detector?
    Meteorite hunting is one of many hobbies I would like to pursue.

    I like your blog.

    • Some carbonaceous chondrites have metal, but they’re few and far between. I don’t know if those that do contain metal can be found using a metal detector. Iron meteorites on the other hand can found with a metal detector. If you decide to persue meteorite hunting, I hear Arizona is a good place to start.

  3. Nice! I love the idea of thise series.
    I bet the handful of meteorites on display at OMSI have a story to tell that might be pretty easy to uncover. It’d be nice to feature those some time, as they are ones that people can go see in person (and even touch in some cases).

  4. I live in gillette wy. I have found what appears to be a 20 lb. chondrite meteorite. I took it to the adventurarium in gillette and they agreed. was wondering if the university could classify and help me find a buyer for it.

    • If you were closer to Portland I’d say bring your meteorite to PSU and we’d be able to help you classify it. However, I’d say your best bet to having your meteorite classified would be to contact someone at the geology department at the University of Wyoming. They should have the tools necessary to do an actual chemical classification or even classify it based on the hand sample alone. As for finding a buyer, you can check out for a full list of buyers in the country. Congratulations on your find and good luck getting it classified!

  5. let me know if you find help in gillette I’m holding what I believe is a millbillillie are you knowledgable on them

    • I don’t know a whole lot about the Millibillillie meteorite. A quick search on the Meteoritical Society Database yielded some information along with a a few pictures. From what I’ve read it’s a eucrite from the HED family of meteorites. Did you have a specific question about it?

      • I’m just looking for a second determin if its even a meteorite at all.I’v spent many hrs.reserching and believe it has the fusion crust,flow lines,dark metalic shine when cut the inside is a different color then out when magnified i can see metal silver flakes here is the catch it is not magnetic from what I’ve learned the odds are against me yet my specamin passed the test so far who knows it could be new or rare find. Here’s hoping.

      • Based on your verbal description, you might have a meteorite. However, unless you picked up your rock in Australia, I’m doubtful that it’s Millibillillie. If I send you an e-mail, would you be willing to send me some pictures of your rock?

      • yes I am more then willing to send you pics thanks for getting back to me I’m pretty excited

  6. Pingback: Episode 134 | Tilling the Stars | Science... sort of

  7. Pingback: Meteorite Monday: Carbonaceous Chondrites Revisited | Glacial Till

  8. Good post however , I was wanting to know if you
    could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Cheers!

    • I’m glad you liked the post! I actually did write more about carbonaceous chondrites. It’s in a post titled “carbonaceous chondrites revisited”. There should be a link either before or after the comments section that links to the new one.

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