Friday, November 28, 2014

Austrian Museum Sets Eyes on a Rare Moon Rock

View of the Meteorite Hall at the Natural History Museum Vienna, the world’s largest meteorite display. Credit: K. Kracher

The Natural History Museum in Vienna (NHMV) is gatekeeper for the world largest and oldest meteorite display. Now they’ve set their eyes on acquiring an extraordinary lunar meteorite – and they’ve started a fund-raising effort to do so, but they need your help! “We’ve started a few days ago a project/campaign we call “Help Us Get the Moon,” says Ludovic Ferrière, curator of the museum’s rock collection and co-curator of their impressive meteorite collection. The object of their attention? The lunar meteorite, Oued Awlitis 001, that was ejected from the Moon several thousands of years ago…then arrived on Earth hundreds of years ago after a very long journey through our Solar System, Ferrière explains.

Oued Awlitis 001– weighing in total about 410 grams – was discovered January 15, 2014 in Western Sahara. It was given that name given the desert area in which it was found.

“Less than five percent of the surface of the Moon was sampled during the Apollo missions,” Ferrière adds. “This meteorite is a providential way to continue the exploration of our natural satellite. It provides a spectacular asset to the study of the origin and evolution of the Moon.”

This unique lunar meteorite — an anorthositic melt rock (formed during a meteorite impact on the Moon) — is now in the Meteorite Hall of the Natural History Museum Vienna. The object is by far the largest lunar meteorite in a European public display – at least until the end of the year 2014.

The lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 with the surface of the Moon as background. Credit: L. Ferrière
The lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 with the surface of the Moon as background. Credit: L. Ferrière

Now, given generous financial support, this celestial time capsule can be seen for the next centuries! “You will see it, your children will see it, and many more generations will also have a chance to see and to study it…provided that this sample enters our collection,” Ferrière says.

The total amount to be able to acquire this unique lunar meteorite, display the object, and to perform detailed and innovative scientific research, is of €110,000.

A fragment of the meteorite is to be used for display purposes and for non-destructive analyses. A large fragment is to be used for the scientific analyses.

As soon as the meteorite is acquired, a consortium of scientists, from all around the world, will be able to analyze the object.

“Please help us to get the Moon to our museum by being a generous explorer,” says Ferrière.

NHMV collections were founded in 1750 by Emperor Franz I Stephan of Lorraine, the husband of Maria Theresa. The museum houses a collection of more than 30 million specimens and artifacts, including several reference (scientific) collections, notably the world's oldest meteorite collection. A notable part of this collection is shown in the recently modernized Meteorite Hall, the world's largest meteorite display. A large number of famous and unique objects, such as the 25,000-year-old figure of the “Venus of Willendorf”, are also visible in the 39 galleries that are visited by more than half a million visitors each year.

For more information about this fund raising campaign – with details about special rewards for various levels of donation — go to: www.ulule.com/help-us-to-get-the-moon

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