Credit: Courtesy Christie's Images
A doghouse struck by a meteorite has sold at auction
A doghouse that was struck by a meteorite fragment in April 2019 -- complete with a hole in the roof -- is among the items that sold on Wednesday during an online Christie's auction of rare meteorites.
The doghouse, the former home of a German Shepherd named Roky, was projected to be the second most valuable item in the annual sale, titled "Deep Impact: Martian, Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites." It had a high estimate of $300,000, but it did not meet expectations, selling for just $44,000.
Before 9:07 p.m. on April 23, 2019, it was just the home of Roky, who was living with its owners in the city of Aguas Zarcas, Costa Rica. But then a meteorite struck it, narrowly missing the dog.
The meteorite itself was not included in the lot, but it was part of the auction, selling for around a third of its high estimate at $21,000.
Why is the doghouse, which is made of pressed wood with a very rusty tin roof, more valuable than the meteorite itself?
"Objects hit by meteorites are extraordinarily rare (as an event it is astronomically unlikely). We are aware of only a handful of these objects in private hands," explained James Hyslop, head of the science and natural history department at Christie's, in an email.
Meteorites, space rocks that land on our planet's surface, are very rare as well: About 500 reach Earth each year, but fewer than 10 are recovered, according to the Planetary Science Institute.
They rarely strike anything, most often landing in the ocean or remote areas, so objects that do get hit become valuable as a consequence. A meteorite-struck mailbox from Claxton, Georgia, sold for $83,000 at auction in 2007. And a Chevy Malibu hit in 2007 eventually sold in 2010 for $230,000, the highest price ever paid for an item of this kind.
The top lot of the sale, the third largest piece of Mars on Earth -- officially known as NWA 12690 -- had a high estimate of $800,000, but it failed to find a buyer.
The planetary chunk landed on Earth as a meteorite after an asteroid hit Mars, scattering debris that eventually reached Earth's orbit. It was determined to be of Martian origin after extensive research, which looked at details such as chemical and isotopic markers, and the fact that the rock is much younger than most meteorites that originate from asteroids.
It was found by a nomad on Dec. 16, 2018, near Achemelmel in Mali, northwest Africa.
Also among the items in the sale was a lunar rock advertised as a "complete slice of the Moon," which was the largest lunar meteorite ever found when it was discovered in the Sahara Desert in 2007, and a slice of the Fukang meteorite -- a 4.5 billion-year-old space rock found in China in 2000.
Christie's described the Fukang meteroite as "a piece of the most beautiful extraterrestrial substance known." The rare meteorite is made from stony-iron pallasite, which contains olivine crystals.
Christie's has been running a meteorite sale every year since 2014. Last year, all 75 lots were sold, with just three of them going for less than the high estimate, raking in a total of $4,351,750.
Top image: Roky the German Shepard's doghouse.