Meteorites are extraterrestrial rocks that arrive on our planet from outer space. They are invaluable sources of information about the universe surrounding us and even our own planet Earth, as strange as that may seem.
The exhibition “Meteorites: When Outer Space Communicates” is an extraordinary display of the meteorite collection found in the Mineralogy Museum at the University of Rome La Sapienza, one of the most important in the world. Organized by the university’s Museums and Collections, with the collaboration of the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo, this comprehensive overview of these rocks from outer space and their significance was made possible thanks to the expertise of University of Rome La Sapienza researchers and the materials held by the Department of Earth Sciences at the same university. It is a unique occasion to learn a wealth of information about meteorites and get an in-depth understanding of what these rocks can tell us, as well as see close-up objects or inestimable value, formed in places man may never ever reach.It’s an exhibition about science, emotions and beauty.
Throughout the show, the meteorites on display will be accompanied by explanatory panels and video materials created by the researchers at La Sapienza for the benefit of the general public, who will find clearly-stated scientific information that they can understand, with all of the scientific rigour and thoroughness that will also satisfy those who are already familiar with the subject.
And at the same time, as a counterpoint to the exhibition on meteorites, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni will be hosting another show entitled “My Planet from Space: Its Fragility and Beauty”, curated by the European Space Agency. Visitors thus understand how the Earth gathers information about space, through meteorites, while space itself allows us to look at ourselves from afar.
The arrangement of the exhibition
“Meteorites: When Outer Space Communicates” is divided into three main sections. The first starts at a point remote in time – 13.8 billion years ago – when the universe, then a small, incandescent entity, started changing into something much bigger and colder. The panels featuring images, illustrations and information will be the visitors’ guide through space and time to explore the history of the universe. Only 9 billion years later, precisely 4.56 billion years ago, when our solar system was formed, would meteorites would be able to tell us about its history and the formation of the Earth itself. Just how did our solar system come to be, and how did the story of our planet unfold?
In the second part of the exhibition, visitors find themselves in a sort of “Wunderkammer” where they finally encounter an astonishing array of meteorites. They are immediately told how to recognize a meteorite and what to do if they should be lucky enough to “meet” one. Here they’ll be acquainted with “Italian” as well as “foreign” meteorites, as well as some from Mars, the Moon, Vesta and other bodies that orbit the sun in the asteroid belt: chondrites, pallasites, eucrites and diogenites. This section concludes with 58 meteor fragments from the exceptional Bur-Gheluai meteor storm in Somalia in 1919, a sensational example of a historic meteorite fall, with features we’ll never be able to find in most meteorites, such as spectacular mineral specimens complete with large crystals. This is when visitors will be told why some minerals can only be found on Earth and not in the rest of the solar system.
The third and final section of the exhibition is devoted to the many myths, narratives, enigmas and odd facts that revolve around meteorites in our collective imagination, including the extinction of the dinosaurs, mysterious accidents, impact craters and famous meteorites. Lastly, “is there life on Mars?” In this section as well, the answers will come from a series of explanatory panels and a selection of meteorites of unique value for aesthetic or historical reasons ((Canyon Diablo, Ensisheim, L’Aigle, Chelyabinsk, Casas Grande and Chassigny). It’s the ideal conclusion to an exhibition in which spectacular settings, mineral marvels and scientific information all converge to shed light on rocks once formed in far-flung corners of the universe and now only inches away from us, with their potent legacy of an aeons-long history.