UCLA Meteorite Collection Rocks Your World

By Erin Mahoney Harris

ucla meteorite collection

Two large meteorites on display in the UCLA gallery include magnets so visitors can observe their magnetic properties. PHOTO BY ERIN MAHONEY HARRIS

As you’re looking to fill the long days of summer with educational activities for the kids, we’ve got one to add to your list: the UCLA Meteorite Collection. The experience is free and open to the public most days of the week, offering hands-on learning opportunities about those crazy rocks that sometimes fall from the sky. On Sunday, docents are on hand to guide visitors. Bonus: it’s air-conditioned. 

The entire collection is housed within one room in UCLA’s geology building, but despite the small gallery space, the contents make a big impact (pun intended). Kids will no doubt be initially drawn toward the large meteorites in the center of the room. Made from iron and nickel, these three specimens, which came from the Clark Iron, Gibeon Iron and Camp Wood Iron meteorites, are displayed with magnets so visitors can observe for themselves their magnetic properties. Particularly impressive is the 811-pound chunk of Gibeon, as it represents the second largest total mass of collected iron meteorites – weighing in at more than 70 tons! Worth checking out is the Clark Iron, part of an asteroid the size of a building that landed 50,000 years ago, forming a famous crater in Arizona – the freshest impact crater on Earth. 

The gallery also features displays of pretty back-lit pallasites, sliced thinly so that visitors can observe the transparent properties of their main component olivine, as well as glassy tektites, which come in all sorts of shapes and colors and were formed when large meteorites melted the soil on the Earth’s surface. All displays feature informative signage. Note, however, that this is pretty heady stuff probably best absorbed by older school-age children or teens with an interest in space and geology. 

The gallery is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Nearby Lot 2 offers one-hour parking for $2, two hours for $4. To find the gallery, exit the parking garage and head northwest, crossing Charles E. Young Drive to reach the geology building. The gallery is on the third floor, across from the elevator, in room 3697. A sign posted out front on Sundays will guide you to the gallery. Learn more at www.meteorites.ucla.edu/visit.

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