Press Release: Field Museum adds rare “cosmic mudball meteorite” to its collections

October 9, 2019 Science

Yesterday morning, the Field Museum added a rare, Brussels sprout-scented meteorite to its collections. This specimen, a “cosmic mudball meteorite” officially called Aguas Zarcas, fell in Costa Rica just this spring.

It’s different from almost all the meteorites that have landed on Earth in recent years. It’s made of clay and other minerals, and it contains organic compounds like amino acids—some of the building blocks of life. Life on Earth probably got its start when compounds like these arrived on the planet via meteorites. Organic compounds are what account for the meteorite’s distinctive smell.

“I am confident that it holds exciting secrets about the origin of our Solar System,” says Philipp Heck, the Pritzker Associate Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies.

The four-pound meteorite—the largest piece found to date—was donated to the museum by the Terry and Gail Boudreaux family, longtime supporters of the Field’s meteoritics research. Scientists like Heck and his team will study the meteorite in the Robert A. Pritzker Center, using it to find clues about presolar and early solar system materials.

"The Robert A. Pritzker Center was established a decade ago precisely so we could pursue the kind of research opportunities this gift from Terry and Gail makes possible,” says Richard Lariviere, President and CEO of the Field Museum. “We are deeply grateful to the Boudreaux Family and to Jennifer Pritzker for ensuring the Field continues to host one of the world's pre-eminent meteoritics research programs."

If you’d like to interview Philipp Heck, Pritzker Associate Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies, or cover this story in any way, email press@fieldmuseum.org.