2001 A Gems-From-Space Odyssey

On Dec. 10, 1984, a 3-lb meteorite hit a mailbox in Claxton, Ga. The meteorite—defined as an asteroid fragment that has fallen to earth—was one of many that each year make the long journey from space. True gem materials can be found in them, but most of these gems are so tiny that when faceted "they would look charming on a bacterium," says Dr. George Rossman, professor of mineralogy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). But every now and then, a gem large enough to be cut, polished, and mounted up for human adornment comes from space and lands on Planet Earth. Sudden impact. Some earthly gems result from the impact of a meteorite rather than from the meteorite itself. "We know that a large meteorite that impacts onto Earth or the moon can produce melting of the target rock in the form of melt rock in the crater and splashed materials [e.g., tektites and glass sp

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