Category: Blog


Published: January 5, 2012

New Kenyan Meteorite Thika Donated

Philipp Heck, Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies and Head, Robert A. Pritzker Center, Integrative Research Center

The Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies is proud to announce the newest addition to the meteorite collection.  The newly named meteorite Thika, recently classified as a L6 ordinary chondrite, was donated to the Center by Collections and Research Committee member Terry Boudreaux in mid-September.  Falling on the morning of July 16, this bright fireball was observed traveling from southern Kenya to the northwest.  Residents in the Thika District in Kiambu County reported loud explosions and screaming noises.  The first piece weighing about 2.5 kg fell within a meter of a woman tilling her field!  Greenhouses were smashed in the village of Mwana Wikio and a house was damaged in nearby Muguga village.   It was in the village of Muguga where, on August 8, Leah Mjoki found the 36 gram piece that would later make its way into The Field Museum’s collection.  Thika belongs to a class of meteorites called ordinary chondrites, but, Collections Manager James Holstein (Geology) says, “There is nothing ordinary in what they can teach us.  We can learn about asteroids and our Solar System’s history by studying the petrology and chemistry of these meteorites.  For example, we can determine how large the meteoroid was before it entered Earth's atmosphere, when it broke away from its parent body and how long it took the meteorite to reach Earth.”

Philipp Heck

Philipp R. Heck is the Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL. He is also an Associate Professor (part time) at the University of Chicago's Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the College, and a member of the Chicago Center for Cosmochemistry.

As the curator in charge and head of the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies, Philipp R. Heck oversees the collection of meteorites, the largest meteorite collection housed at a private research institution. Other responsibilities include the curation of the gem, mineral, rock and economic geology collections.