Meteorite Types - History


Modern meteorite classification was worked out in the 1860s. It is based on Gustav Rose's and Nevil Story Maskelyne's classifications. Gustav Rose worked on the meteorite collection of the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin and Nevil Story Maskelyne on the collection of the British Museum, London. Rose was the first to make different categories for meteorites with chondrules (chondrites) and without chondrules (nonchondrites). Maskelyne differentiated siderites (now iron meteorites), siderolites (now Stony Iron Meteorites) and aerolites (now Stony Meteorite).

In 1872 Gustav Tschermak published his first meteorite classification based on Gustav Rose's catalog from 1864:

Meteorite Catalog Tschermak 1872
  • (I) Anorthite and augite. Meteoric iron barely noticeable.
  • (Eu) Eucrite: Crystalline or breccia.
  • (*) Shergotty: Augite and maskelynite.
  • (II) Olivine, bronzite, enstatite. Meteoric iron barely noticeable.
  • (*) Chassigny
  • (Sh) Shalkite: Granular. Olivine and bronzite. ]]
  • (Ma) Manegaumite: Whitish tuff-like. Bronzite.
  • (*) Bishopsville: White, granular. Enstatite.
  • (*) Bustee: Whitish, granular. Enstatite and augite.
  • (Ho) Howardite: Whitish, tuff-like. Olivine and augite? Anorthite?
  • (Ch) Whitish chondritic tuffs with small blackish fragments and few spheres. Similar to howardites.
  • (Cw) White masses without spheres or with whitish spheres.
  • (Cwb) Same as Cw but with striking breccia-like structures.
  • (Ci) Interlink between Cw and the other members of category III.
  • (Cib) Same as Ci but with striking breccia-like structures.
  • (Cg) Grey chondrites. Grey masses, with brighter spheres. The brown, hard, fine-fibrous spheres are missing or are few in numbers.
  • (Cgb) Same as Cg but with striking breccia-like structures.
  • (*) Ornans meteorite: A loose grey mass with dust-like fine spheres.
  • (Cc) Chondrite with brown, hard, fine-fibrous spheres.
  • (*) Tadjera meteorite: Black, half-vitreous mass.
  • (Ck) Chondrites, that are predominantly out of a crystalline granular mass.
  • (Ckb) Same as Ck but with striking breccia-like structures.
  • (*) Lodran meteorite: Crystals of olivine and bronzite, connected by a very fine network of meteoric iron.
  • (IV) Silicates and meteoric iron in granular conglomerates
  • (M) Mesosiderite
  • (V) Meteoric iron, that have inclusions of silicate crystals.
  • (P) Pallasite
  • (VI) Meteoric iron
  • (a) With shell-like composition parallel to the octahedron.
  • (Of) Thin lamella. Fine Widmanstädten pattern.
  • (Om) Normal lamella and patterns. Boundary of lamella is even.
  • (Ok) Same as Om but boundaries are uneven.
  • (Og) Wide lamella. Pattern coarse.
  • (b*) Zacatecas meteorite. Consists of shell-like coarse-grained pieces.
  • (c) Hb: Meteoric iron out of many simple (not shell-like) coarse-grained pieces.
  • (d) H: Out of one crystal without shell-like composition.
  • (e*) Capland. Seemingly dense. Dull after etching, but shows continuous stripes.
  • (f) D: Granular and dense. No patterns after etching.

In 1883 Gustav Tschermak modified Gustav Rose's classification again.

Further modifications were made by Aristides Brezina.

The first chemical classification was published by Oliver Cummings Farrington 1907.

George Thurland Prior further improved the classification based on mineralogical and chemical data, introducing the terms mesosiderite, lodranite and enstatite chondrite. In 1923 he published a catalogue of the meteorites in the Natural History Museum (London). He describes his classification as based on Gustav Tschermak and Aristides Brezina with modifications by himself. His main subdivisions were:

  1. Meteoric Irons or Siderites
  2. Meteoric Stony-irons or Siderolites
  3. Meteoric Stones or Aerolites.

He subdivides the "Meteoric Stones" into those that have chondrules (Chondritic Meteoric Stones or Chondrites) and those that don't (Non-chondritic Meteoric Stones or Achondrites). The iron meteorites are subdivided according to their structures as ataxites, hexahedrites and octahedrites. A complete overview of his classification is given in the box below:

Meteorite Catalogue of the Natural History Museum (London)
by George Thurland Prior, 1923
  • (I) Meteoric Irons or Siderites
  • (a) Nickel-poor Ataxites
  • (b) Hexahedrites
  • (c) Octahedrites
  • (d) Medium-Nickel Ataxites
  • (e) Nickel-rich Ataxites
  • (II) Meteoric Stony-irons or Siderolites
  • (a) Olivine Stony-irons, or Pallasites
  • (b) Bronzite-asmanite Stony-irons, or Siderophyres
  • (c) Bronzite-olivine Stony-irons, or Lodranites
  • (d) Hypersthene-anorthite Stony-irons, or Mesosiderites
  • (III) Meteoric Stones or Aerolites
  • (IIIa) Chondritic Meteoric Stones or Chondrites
  • (a) Enstatite-chondrites
  • (b) Bronzite-chondrites
  • (c) Hypersthene-chondrites
  • (IIIb) Non-chondritic Meteoric Stones or Achondrites
  • (a) Calcium-poor Achondrites
  • (1) Enstatite-achondrites or Aubrites, corresponding to Enstatite-chondrites
  • (2) Clinobronzite-olivine-achondrites or Ureilites, corresponding to Bronzite-chondrites
  • (3) Hypersthene-olivine-achondrites or Amphoterites (and Rodites)
  • (4) Hypersthene-achondrites or Diogenites Hypersthene-chondrites
  • (5) Olivine-achondrites or Chassignites
  • (b) Calcium-rich Achondrites
  • (1) Augite-achondrites or Angrites
  • (2) Diopside-olivine-achondrites or Nakhlites
  • (3) Clinohypersthene-anorthite-achondrites or Eucrites, including Sherghottites in which anorthite is replaced by maskelynite
  • (4) Hypersthene - clinohypersthene - anorthite - achondrites or Howardites

Brian Harold Mason published a further revision in the 1960s.

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