News March 2017

Published on Mar 25, 2017


Director | Curator | Store
Events | Science | Support

From the Director’s Desk-Meteorite Lecture

By Barbra Barrett, MMGM Director


At the Museum and More…

Maine Mineralogical & Geological Society’s 34th Annual Gem, Mineral & Jewelry Show
April 1-2, 2017
Saint Joseph’s College,
Standish, ME

Emera Astronomy Center Science Lecture Series
April 6, 2017 • 7:00 PM
Meteorites and the Origin of the Solar System Dr. Henning Haack – MMGM’s Research Associate Emera Astronomy Center
167 Rangeley Rd
Orono, Maine 04469

MMGM Tours & Talks
April 20, 2017 • 6:00 PM
Social & Collection Preview
7:00 PM Lecture
Talk: Meteorites – Dr. Henning Haack, Research Associate
Maine Mineral & Gem Museum

44th Rochester Mineralogical Symposium
April 20th – 24th, 2017
April 21, 2017 – Technical Session – Contributed Papers in Specimen Mineralogy
1:00-5:00 PM – Dr. Carl Francis, Curator MMGM

Annual MMGM Mineralogical Heritage Awards Banquet
May 12, 2017 • 4:30-6:45 PM
Tickets: $30 per person
To register go to:

New England Mineral Conference
May 12th – 14th, 2017
Grand Summit Hotel – Sunday River Resort, Newry, ME

Barbra's photoMost people are fascinated by a brilliantly starlit sky or bemused when they see a shooting star or better yet a meteor shower. Those fleeting trails of light caused by small particles burning up high in the atmosphere dazzle the child in all of us. Even more phenomenal, larger space debris sometimes falls to earth creating a magnificent glow during its rapid descent. Recovered fragments from these events are meteorites. MMGM will host two special events in April focusing on these extraordinary and educational rocks from space.

Last May a very bright fireball was observed over Maine most likely resulting in a meteorite fall north of Rangeley Lake. Unfortunately, the meteorite was never found, despite a considerable effort to locate it. Meteorites contain material from the birth of our Solar System and are used to understand how and when it formed. These meteorites aid us in finding out which types of stars delivered material to our Solar System. The latest generation of astronomical telescopes can observe new Solar Systems forming today and based on the information from the meteorites we hope to find new Solar Systems that resemble our own. Meteorites bring us closer to understanding the origin of our solar system as well as life on our own planet.

Henning Haack received his PhD in Geophysics from the University of Copenhagen, and did postdoc work at the Planetary Geosciences division at the University of Hawaii and at the Institute of Physics in Odense. He has served as an Associate Research Professor at the Danish Center for Remote Sensing and curator for the Geological Museum at the University of Copenhagen. He has searched for meteorites in numerous locations including the Antarctica, Cape York, and the blue ice fields in Greenland. He has received a number of honors including the University of Copenhagen’s Gold Medal, The United States Congress Antarctic Service Medal, and has an asteroid named in his honor (Asteroid 7005 –Henning Haack). He currently is an Associate Researcher at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel and teaches at Science Talents in Denmark.

On April 6th at 7:00 PM, Henning will be the guest science lecture series speaker the at University of Maine’s Emera Astronomy Center in Orono. The lecture will take place in the planetarium under the stars and allow participants a special opportunity to zoom out to space to see where these unique rocks originated. There will be an opportunity to see a selection of spectacular meteorites – the rocks that document the birth and early evolution of our Solar System. For tickets and more information please visit

Henning will also be presenting his lecture at the Museum as part of our Third Thursday Talks on April 20th at 7:00PM. We will open the doors at 6:00PM for a special social hour and sneak peek at some of MMGM’s premiere meteorite collection. We hope that you will join us for one of these memorable events.


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By Carl Francis, PhD, MMGM Curator

Carl Francis, MMGM CuratorCollections, if they are any good, are the product of personal passion regardless of whether they are private collections or museum collections. MMGM co-founder Larry Stifler is a passionate collector of meteorites—those rare rocks that have fallen from space. He fell in love with the pallasites, which are stony irons-metallic nickel-iron with inclusions of olivine (or peridot, the August birthstone). If a pallasite is cut into a thin slice the olivines transmit light and they look something like a stained glass window. In order to share his meteorites with the public and to make MMGM an even more unique and attractive destination, Larry decided to install his collection in the museum. They will occupy the second floor of the new building above the museum’s gift shop. One will have to go to New York City to see anything comparable.

Meteorites arrive frequently at the museum and require curation. Director Barbra Barrett has taken on this responsibility and in doing so discovered a new passion. She is as excited about showing meteorites to visitors as Larry. Barbra is involved in every aspect of curating the Stifler collection and planning for its exhibition. Her administrative assistant Chrys Snogren is equally involved maintaining specimen documentation and overseeing their storage. Meteorites will not just be displayed here; they will occupy the largest gallery space and be a major attraction and educational resource.

Events-Third Thursday Talks Resume

By Annemarie Saunders, MMGM Staff

Spring is here!  To celebrate we are queuing up for some great MMGM events.  We will kick April off by participating at the Maine Mineralogical and Geological Society’s Gem and Mineral show at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.  MMGM’s visiting Research Associate, Dr. Henning Haack will be the guest lecturer at the Emera Astronomy Center for their Science Lecture Series on April 6th at the University of Maine in Orono. Our Third Thursday Talks will resume on April 20th with a repeat performance of Henning’s talk for those who miss the event in Orono.

MMGM’s curator, Dr. Carl Francis will be speaking at the Rochester (NY) Mineralogical Symposium on April 21 from 1:00-5:00 pm. Registration information for this event can be found at

The 2nd Annual MMGM Mineralogical Heritage Awards Banquet takes place on May 12 in conjunction with the New England Mineral Conference being held at the Grand Summit Hotel at the Sunday River Resort in Newry, ME.  Tickets are $30.00 per person by advanced registration only and can be purchased on our website:  If you have any questions, please contact Annemarie at or at 207.824.3036.  For NEMC registration please visit their page at

Our preview gallery is open Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and can be accessed through the Museum Store.  Stop in for a sneak peek of minerals and meteorites in MMGM’s collection and check out exciting new jewelry designs in the store.

Treasures-Meteorite Jewelry

By Maggie Kroenke, MMGM Staff

MaggieAre you looking for a truly out of this world gift? Our selection of jewelry featuring meteorites from around the world should do the trick! Choose from: Campo del Cielo from Argentina, Gibeon from Namibia, Muonionalusta from Sweden and Seymchan or Sikhote-Alin, from Russia.

A large portion of our jewelry features the Muonionalusta iron meteorite that was found in 1906 in one of Sweden’s most northern counties. The pattern of very fine, intersecting lines, called Widmanstatten pattern, is a characteristic feature of Muonionalusta brought out by etching the slices with nitric acid. This pattern forms as the iron cooled in the core of an asteroid over millions of years and cannot be replicated in a laboratory.

Most meteorites fall unobserved, but not Sikhote-Alin. Its fall in eastern Siberia in 1947 was spectacular and created more than one hundred small craters. Most of the pieces are set in sterling silver, but a few were created with yellow gold.

The most striking pieces are those made with slices of Seymchan. They show the transparent crystals of peridot that define the pallasite class of meteorites. Seymchan was found in a Russian riverbed in 1967. Sometimes those peridot crystals can be cut into gemstones. Come take a look at our large selection of meteorite jewelry from T & M Stones, Brian Quigley and stay tuned for new pieces of jewelry by Maine jewelry designer Christine Peters featuring these gorgeous little gems.

Hours: Monday through Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Science-Closer Look At Meteorites

By Al Falster, Skip Simmons & Karen Webber, MP2 Research Group

The MMGM laboratory is primarily focused studying on the origin of granitic pegmatites and their minerals but we occasionally get submissions of suspected meteorites. Unfortunately, none of the samples submitted so far has turned out to be a meteorite. Many are magnetic, but a lot of natural rock samples exhibit magnetism due to the presence of magnetite or pyrrhotite. Man-made chunks of metal commonly masquerade as meteorites. Some mimic nickel-iron meteorites quite well. Chemical tests are needed in such cases. The samples we received proved to be manganese-iron alloys, chrome-vanadium steel and high carbon cast iron. Some of the samples submitted showed areas where a cutting torch was used to trim the piece off which can give a sample a meteorite-like appearance. Some years ago, when we were at the University of New Orleans, a piece of metal was submitted with just such cutting torch marks. That sample also bore an imprinted number, which is generally accepted as indicative of the man-made nature of such a find!

Other suspected meteorites turned out to be various natural rocks: non-vesicular basalt, greenstone, scoria, gabbro and iron-stained limestone.

Meteorite identification is challenging because meteorites are so variable in their character and appearence. Some are metallic, others are stony. Mixed groups also exist. Fusion crust on stony meteorites is generally good evidence, but this can be sometimes confused with deposits of manganese oxide minerals as is commonly seen in ‘desert varnish’. Regmaglypts, which are thumbprint-like depressions over the surface, are a good indicator for iron meteorites. Final verification is always obtained in the lab.

Below are some recent images obtained in our laboratory.
SEM images of an authentic meteorite, a rare type of chondrite, a Bencubbin-like meteorite from Gujba, Yobe, Nigeria.

Fig 1. A backscattered electron image of the Bencubbin-like meteorite Gujba shows a partially oxidized mass of nickel-iron (spot 8 is the fresh metal, spots 6 and 7 are oxidized portions. Small masses of troilite, an iron sulfide are shown for example in spot 5.

Fig. 2. An X-ray map of Figure 1 with iron shown in green and oxygen in red. Clearly, the orange/greenish area is where oxidized iron compounds are present!

Fig. 3. An X-ray map of the same area as in the other two images with magnesium shown in blue and calcium in orange. The blue reveals olivine and orange reveals plagioclase feldspar.

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