A section of the Seymchan meteorite weighing in at 4,849 grams, or just under 5 kilograms, could fetch as much as R560,000 at an unusual auction in Johannesburg next week.
Stephan Welz & Co will be auctioning off that valuable section of space rock alongside 19 meteorite sections of lesser value alongside mineral specimens of more earthly extraction and various gemstones, in what it has described as an event in "unchartered waters".
But "we trust it will be the first of many," says auctioneer Anton Welz.
Tiny sections of Seymchan can be had for around R740, but larger portions are rare. The biggest section of the meteorite was turned over to the Academy of Sciences of the then USSR after its discovery.
Parts of Seymchan are pure iron, and two such samples will be on sale. But the 5kg hunk and a smaller sphere are pallasitic, with sections of olivine interspersed.
A section of the much less visually impressive – but arguably far more significant – Murchison meteorite from Australia is expected to fetch a relatively paltry R80,000 or so. Early analysis of Murchison found it rich in amino acids, thought to be precursors of life on Earth. More recent work has estimated that there may be millions of organic compounds in the rock.
While the rock does not prove the theory of panspermia, it doesn't hurt it much either.
Also on sale: two sections of the moon, for around R40,000 and around R30,000 respectively. Both are samples of rocks presumably knocked to earth after an impact to the Moon.
At the bottom end of the expected price range, a small section of the Chelyabinsk meteor is expected to fetch as little as R20,000 – even though it achieved instant fame with its fiery 2012 fall to earth, and the extensive damage it did to the town for which it is named.