Published: March 8, 2012

Field Museum receives donation of rare, ungrouped achondrite

Philipp Heck, Sr. Director, Negaunee Integrative Research Center; Robert A. Pritzker Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies; Head, Robert A. Pritzker Center, Negaunee Integrative Research Center

Collections and Research Committee Member Terry Boudreaux and fellow meteorite collector Greg Hupé donated a beautifully polished 4.9-gram-slice of a rare, ungrouped achondritic meteorite (NWA 6704) to The Field Museum.  The meteorite fell in the Sahara desert in northwestern Africa and did not experience much weathering.  The interior is a beautiful yellowish green (see photo) and is composed of the mineral plagioclase, pyroxene, olivine, chromite, and of metal, and does not show signs of shock due to the impact.  The meteorite has lost its chondritic texture and is therefore an achondrite.  However, the petrology, the elemental and oxygen isotopic composition share characteristics of different meteorite groups and does not allow to group it with any known group.  “This unusual and precious meteorite is a wonderful addition to the Museum's meteorite collection,” said Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck (Geology), “it will be carefully curated in our state-of-the-art collection space to make sure it is available not only for current studies but also for future generations of scientists.”  The Department of Geology thanks Terry Boudreaux and Greg Hupé for their generous donation.

Philipp Heck
Sr. Director, Negaunee Integrative Research Center; Robert A. Pritzker Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies; Head, Robert A. Pritzker Center

Philipp R. Heck serves as the Senior Director of Research at the Field Museum. Research at the Field Museum is conducted in the areas of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Life Sciences, Anthropology and Archeology, and is united in the Negaunee Integrative Research Center. Heck is the Robert A. Pritzker Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL in the Science & Education department and a Professor (part time) at the University of Chicago's Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the College ( 

Heck's research focuses on presolar grains to understand our parent stars and the history of our Galaxy, early solar system materials, asteroids, and on the delivery history of extraterrestrial matter to Earth. For his research he studies the mineralogy and geochemistry of meteorites, micrometeorites and space-mission returned samples and also of fossil meteorites and micrometeorites found in Earth's sedimentary record. Heck joined the sample analysis team of NASA's OSIRIS-REx sample return mission. Heck was a member of the international research consortium to find and study the first modern interstellar dust returned by NASA's Stardust Mission. Heck is an executive committee member of the Extraterrestrial Materials Analysis Group (ExMAG) and is chairing the Microparticle Subcommittee.

As the curator in charge, Philipp R. Heck oversees the collection of meteorites at the recently established Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies, the largest meteorite collection housed at a private institution with more than 12000 specimens and more than 1600 different meteorites. Other responsibilities include the curation of the gem, mineral, rock and economic geology collections.

Philipp R. Heck came to the Field Museum in March 2010 from the University of Chicago, where he was a postdoctoral scholar working on new analytical techniques for presolar grains. He obtained his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees at ETH Zurich in Switzerland in geo- and cosmochemistry. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry where he studied the first comet dust brought back from Comet Wild-2 by NASA’s Stardust Mission and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he worked mainly on fossil meteorites and banded iron formations from around the world. For his studies he uses specialized analytical techniques such as secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS, IMS-1280 and TOF-SIMS), noble gas mass spectrometry, atom probe tomography, scanning electron microscopy and electron microprobe analysis. Sample preparation for atom-probe work is performed with focused ion beam workstations.