SALT LAKE CITY — The Clark Planetarium is currently displaying pieces of a shattered meteorite. Upon passage through the earth's atmosphere, the Chelyabinsk meteor broke into millions of pieces. Meteorite enthusiasts converged on the site where the pieces made contact with the ground and Clark Planetarium now has three of those fragments on exhibit.
Seth Jarvis, the museum's director, said meteorite display is rarer than people might think.
"Anybody who has a meteorite collection wants a piece of the Chelyabinsk meteorite," Jarvis said. "That's a must have."
Visitors to Clark Planetarium's "The Sky is Falling" exhibit can now see pieces of the meteorite in a new display case.
Jarvis said the earth gets hit daily by objects from space, and the planetarium has a good collection of space rocks. However, these new rocks are significant because they are so recent and they came from one of the largest objects to hit the earth in more than a century.
The estimate is that the original object was about the size of a convenience store, so think about a 7-11 made out of rock flying through space.
"The estimate is that the original object was about the size of a convenience store, so think about a 7-11 made out of rock flying through space," Jarvis described.
The rock exploded into millions of pieces, which were spread out over an area of 100 square miles. The meteorite is a type of material called a "Chondrite", a rocky aggregate with silicon, nickel and iron particles. It dates back to the beginnings of the solar system, about 4.6 billion years.
Jarvis said the fragments of meteorite are a valuable asset to the museum's education goals.
"A meteorite dealer will tell you that it's so many hundreds of dollars per gram," he said. "For us, though, I think educationally and scientifically and historically, it's priceless."
The Russian meteorite will also be playing a role in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. On February 15th, the one-year anniversary of the explosion, seven Olympic events will be held. The gold medals awarded that day will contains fragments of that meteorite.
These medals will be handed out on the anniversary in the speed skating, cross country, ski jumping, super G and skeleton competition. All other gold medals will look similar to those given out on February 15th, but will not contain any space rock.