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South Florida Museum Offers Visitors a Chance To Touch a Meteorite

Not only is touching allowed, but the first 500 children to visit Friday's exhibit will get to take meteorite dust home with them.

Ever go to a museum and just itch to touch one of the exhibits?

Well tonight's your chance to touch a piece of history — and the opportunity comes free of charge. The South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium is opening an exhibit that is 4.5 billion years in the making.

From from 5 p.m.to 9 p.m. the museum will be open for free and visitors will be allowed to touch, feel and experience the oldest object they will ever likely encounter, a fragment of the Campo del Cielo meteorite dubbed “FeNi” based on its composition of mostly Iron and Nickel. The Campo del Cielo is composed of 92.6% iron, 6.7% nickel, 0.43% cobalt and 0.25% phosphorus, with traces of gallium, germanium and iridium.

Sometime around 2500 B.C., a large meteoroid blazed through earth's atmosphere, the violent entry shattered the massive chunk of metal into countless fragments. The pieces rained down on northern Argentina in an area now called Campo del Cielo – the Field of Heaven. More than 100 tons of the Campo del Cielo meteorite have been recovered, including this fragment that weighs 138 pounds.

The meteorite's composition reveals extensive information about the earth's core because it was in the process of becoming a planet before it crashed into the earth's atmosphere, said Jeff Rodgers, the director of the Bishop Planetarium. Earlier this week Rodgers showed off a slice of the meteorite that reveals melting points and cooling patterns in the way it is finished.

The meteorite also connects to the earth's history and culture in many other ways, from what happened to the dinosaurs to native Americans use of the materials in tools and jewelry.

An exhibit has been built around all of those connections so that children and families can see how this ancient piece from space affected civilization.

"It's a fascinating nexus of science and culture," Rodgers said. "It shows that there are so many ways to think of something."

The first 500 kids at the event will receive free meteorite dust to take home. The event will include a themed star talk, science demonstrations and cosmic-themed activities and games for kids and families.

The timing for this exhibit couldn't be better. Stargazers will be able to view two meteor showers this month — starting Sunday night when the Draconids will be visible in the northern sky. It is one of the few meteor showers visible before midnight. Start watching for the showers about an hour or so after sunset.

An Oct. 20 star talk from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the new Riverwalk Park will preview the Orionides meteor showers expected to peak on Oct. 20 and 21.

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