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New Meteorwrongs

With the search for fragments of the meteor that streaked over Chelyabinsk continuing, I thought I'd point readers out to a project, titled Dark Flight: Meteorwrongs, by Ryan Thompson, whose Glacial Erratic Monuments project was previously featured here on Pruned.

Quoting the artist's brief statement in full:

Within one of the most well-known collections of meteorites in the world, at the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University, is a collection of rocks of mistaken identity. Once identified by professional and amateur meteorite hunters as meteorites, they were later proven to be of terrestrial origin. Dark Flight: Meteorwrongs is a series of photographs of 21 of these false positives. They range in size from just a few inches to more than one foot in diameter and they all have one thing in common—they are not meteorites. The collection stands as a testament to the evolution of the science of meteoritics and to the limits of human knowledge.

As Thomson also remarks elsewhere, “these meteorwrongs reflect the hopes and wishes of the individuals who found them.”

It seems interesting, then, to note here that while the sky happening, captured as it were on dash-cams and then multiplied exponentially on the social web, has been canonized into the annals of the New Aesthetics and the New Normal, the treasure hunters combing the fields of the oblast, dreaming of profit and some fleeting fame or simply manifesting an antediluvian pathology (“meteor fever”), remind us that the New Cultural Cycle, in this case, may ultimately just be a temporary veneer on an immutable bedrock of primordial desires.


The staff at the aforementioned Center for Meteorite Studies “receives nearly 1000 inquiries from curious and hopeful rockhounds. The vast majority of the samples submitted for inspection turn out to be terrestrial rocks, affectionately known as 'meteorwrongs'. In fact, only two or three of the samples sent in every year turn out to be meteorites.” I'm unfortunately quoting from one of their newsletters published in 2010, the same year they suspended their free identification program. Fortunately, there are still places where you can send specimens for identification, such as the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies at The Field Museum in Chicago. There are also online collections of false positives to help you ID your curious finds yourself.

To finish on a positive note, here are some radar-generated images of Asteroid 2012 DA14, a true extraterrestrial object, which reached its record close approach to earth on the same day as the Chelyabinsk meteor event.

Asteroid 2012 DA14

Curiously, the low resolution of the images doesn't at all diminish the object's authenticity, as if, here compared with the meteorwrongs, distance has a counter effect on validity. Galaxies at the edges of the universe appearing as red smudges, exoplanets and exomoons dipping and spiking multiple lines of detection, infinitesimal particles skimming the border of knowability, and now a pixelated asteroid: they may be at the breaking point of human vision, but we still deem them to be genuine. Objects that we can hold, feel their grit and sharp edges, smell and taste: they're chucked off as fake. The greater the resolution, again at least in this case, the greater the fiction.


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