Backplate is an access point to those who desire meteorites of extraordinary provenance.
A joint venture between Dave Gheesling and Darryl Pitt, BACKPLATE is a reference to the mailbox which was struck by the Claxton meteorite in 1984. Pitt was the owner of the mailbox and consigned it to auction in October 2007 (where it sold for $84,000 / €64,700). The backplate of the mailbox was blown out by the impact, and Pitt sold it separately to a new buyer and future friend...Dave Gheesling.
The second largest specimen of Tissint was sold by BACKPLATE to the Natural History Museum in London (formerly the British Museum of Natural History). Backplate also sold a large specimen of Tissint to the Smithsonian, as well as smaller specimens to other museums and research centers.
is owner and curator of the Falling Rocks Meteorite Collection in Atlanta, Georgia, the largest meteorite collection in the southeastern United States, and was elected to the International Meteorite Collectors Association board of directors in 2009. Dave regularly does outreach presentations on meteorites and astronomy with local school groups and is an avid meteorite hunter — time permitting. He is also the CEO of the FEI Group, the largest network of residential trade contractors in the U.S. He has authored numerous articles on meteorites as well as monographs regarding noteworthy recoveries.
is the owner and curator of the Macovich Collection of Meteorites in New York City — the world's foremost collection of aesthetic meteorites. Most of the world's foremost natural history musuems have acquired meteorites from Pitt over the years. Also the principal of Depth of Field Mgmt, Pitt steers the careers of The Bad Plus, Regina Carter, Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves — the latter being the foremost male and female jazz vocalists in the world.
Home - Backplate is an access point to those who desire meteorites of extraordinary provenance.
Gallery - List of meteorite specimens from Backplate.
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- List of articles and references related to the Tissint event and our Backplate specimens.
- Learn more about Backplate and read about meteorites, as well as Lunar and Martian specimens.
Intro to Meteorites
- A primer for meteorites and our fascination with their origin and classification.
- A brief introduction to Martian meteorites.
- How we determine that a meteorite originated from the planet Mars, and how it arrived on Earth.
- A brief introduction to lunar meteorites.
- How we determine that a meteorite originated from our Moon, and how it arrived on Earth.
- Contact Backplate now to inquire about rare and museum quality meteorites for your collection.
Intro to Meteorites
Meteorites have held the fascination of mankind since the dawn of civilization. Dozens of meteorites are known to have been venerated and every major religion has a parable seeded by a meteorite impact.
Meteorites — not to be confused with meteors, the luminescent phenomena in the night sky — are fragments of natural material from outer space that impact Earth. Named after the closest city, geological feature, or post office to which they are “delivered,” meteorites originate from asteroids, comets, the Moon and Mars. Unlike meteor showers, which result from Earth's predictable, annual passage through cometary tails, meteorite showers are almost never predictable.
Meteorites are of great interest to scientists as they contain a tremendous amount of information concerning the formation of our solar system. In addition, it has been hypothesized not only that a meteorite led to the demise of the dinosaurs (allowing the opportunity for human life to evolve), but also that meteorites transported to Earth the precursors to life itself, more than four billion years ago. Organic molecules, including amino acids, have been found in some meteorites, resulting in the increasingly popular Panspermia Theory of Creation: life having been “seeded” on Earth by extraterrestrial impact.
The combined mass of all known meteorites is less than the world’s annual output of gold, and private collectors have been making the little excess material that does exist into one of the most in-demand collectibles today.
There are three broad categories of meteorites: stones (representing approximately 94% of all meteorites), irons (5%); and stony irons (1%). Stone meteorites quickly terrestrialize or become "weathered" after impact. To the uninitiated, stones typically appear to be of an Earthly origin, and recovery is problematic unless the impact is witnessed or the meteorite lands in an environment where it is easily detected. Iron meteorites are comprised primarily of iron and nickel, are more resistant to Earth’s elemental forces and are more easily recognized. On average, they are composed of 90% iron, 8% nickel, and 2% trace elements. The amount of nickel determines the type of crystalline pattern that will form, referred to as either a Widmanstätten or acid-etch pattern. This singularly dazzling crystalline latticework is unique to meteorites, and therefore diagnostic in the identification of meteorites.
Stony-irons, as the name indicates, are a combination of the stone and iron types and the most resplendent of all, frequently containing crystals of translucent olivine suspended in a nickel-iron matrix.
For a meteorite to be analyzed by scientists it must be broken or cut; only when multiple specimens of the same meteorite are recovered can complete specimens exist. In the event you have found what you believe to be a meteorite, you are urged to contact a sanctioned meteorite identification service, as each newly discovered meteorite is a possible Rosetta Stone that can assist in unlocking the mystery of creation.
Scientists agree that the impact of a large asteroid on the Martian surface launched chunks of Mars into space — portions of which landed on Earth. There are numerous compositional and isotopic features that are unique to Mars — which assists scientists in the determination of Martian origin. Several samples are known to contain tiny bubbles...with tiny volumes of gas...which match the composition of the Martian atmosphere as determined by NASA's Viking missions.
As of June 1, 2012, there are only 61 different Martian meteorites known to exist. The number would be somewhat larger if we included those meteorites which are found at different times in a similar location, which are later determined to originate from the same impact event. The total weight of every Martian meteorite known to exist is approximately 115 kilograms or 250 pounds. (By way of comparison, 2500 tons of gold as well as 8 tons of gem quality diamonds are mined every single year.) Clearly, specimens of the planet Mars are among the rarest objects on Earth. Moreover, of the 250 pounds of Martian material in existence, 60 pounds (nearly 25%) is forever off-limits to the private sector as it was recovered in Antarctica on scientific expeditions and controlled by a consortium of governments.
Specimens of the planet Mars are among the rarest and most unobtainable substances on Earth. Unlike the 841 pounds of lunar specimens recovered by NASA's Apollo astronauts, the only samples of Mars are meteorites, and the offering of the Tissint Martian samples seen here will forever be among the most preeminent of Martian specimens.
Proof of Martian Origin
The scientific community universally agrees that as of June 1, 2012, there are 61 distinct Martian meteorites whose total weight is less than 250 pounds.
In 1995, Science magazine announced that minute volumes of gas trapped in tiny bubbles found within a suspected Martian meteorite matched the atmospheric composition of Mars (as determined by NASA's unmanned Viking lander in 1976). Prior to the announcement of this smoking gun of Martian origin, the belief that a select group of meteorites originated from Mars was based on the following:
Scientists were puzzled by a handful of meteorites which contained minerals that could only form following water alteration. As there is no water in the asteroid belt — the source of 99% of all meteorites — they did not originate in the asteroid belt. In addition, these meteorites not contained evidence of having crystallized under the influence of a planetary-sized — yet smaller than Earth's — gravitational field, and also contained levels of cosmic radiation consistent with having originated in the inner solar system. As a result of the foregoing, scientists were certain that such meteorites originated from Venus or Mars, and were believed to be Martian as it would be more difficult for an object to escape the Venusian surface after an asteroid impact given that Venus has a stronger gravitational field and thicker atmosphere. And so for decades this small class of meteorites was suspected to have originated from Mars — and then the aforementioned proof arrived.
In the past twenty years the highly specific chemical signature of Martian meteorites has been further studied and refined with ever improved technology, and further links to Mars have been established.
The Tissint specimens offered here are guaranteed to have originated from the surface of the planet Mars.
Scientists agree that the impact of a large asteroid on the Lunar surface launched chunks of our Moon into space — portions of which landed on Earth. The meteorites that come from the Moon are the same age and composition as rocks that were brought back by the Apollo astronauts and by the Russian Luna robotic probes.
As of October, 2012, there are only 156 Lunar meteorite classifications known to exist. About one in every thousand newly discovered meteorites is a lunar meteorite, whereas the vast majority of meteorites are from the asteroid belt. The total weight of every Lunar meteorite known to exist is approximately 52 kilograms or 115 pounds. (By way of comparison, 2500 tons of gold as well as 8 tons of gem quality diamonds are mined every single year.) Clearly, specimens from our Moon are among the rarest objects on Earth. Moreover, of the 115 pounds of Lunar meteorite material in existence, most is forever off-limits to the private sector as lunar meteorites collected by the U.S. and Japanese Antarctic programs are, by treaty, held by those governments for research and education purposes only.
Lunar meteorites collected in Africa and Oman are, for all practical purposes, the only source of moon rocks available for private ownership. This is because the 841 pounds of lunar specimens recovered by NASA's Apollo astronauts are property of the United States government or of other nations to which the U.S. conveyed them as gifts.
Proof of Lunar Origin
The meteoritic community, as of October, 2012, lists 156 distinct Lunar meteorite classifications whose total weight is less than 115 pounds.
Lunar origin is established by comparing the mineralogy, the chemical composition, and the isotopic composition between meteorites and samples from the Moon collected by Apollo missions.
In January 1982, John Schutt, leading an expedition in Antarctica for the ANSMET program, found a meteorite that he recognized to be unusual. Shortly thereafter, the meteorite now called Allan Hills 81005 was sent to Washington, DC, where Smithsonian Institution geochemist Brian Mason recognized that the sample was unlike any other known meteorite and resembled some rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo program.
Cosmic ray exposure history established with noble gas measurements have shown that all lunar meteorites were ejected from the Moon in the past 20 million years. Most left the Moon in the past 100,000 years. After leaving the Moon, most lunar meteoroids go into orbit around Earth and eventually succumb to Earth's gravity. Some meteoroids ejected from the Moon get launched into orbits around the sun. These meteoroids remain in space longer but eventually intersect the Earth's orbit and land.