Space rock lovers descend on New York for meteor gathering

The Meteoritical Society meets this week in New York to discuss all things space rock.

Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT/Newscom
Ruben Garcia holds a 21-gram meteorite found by a member of his group, April 20, 2010 in Iowa County near Livingston, Wisconsin. This week, the Meteoritical Society is meeting in New York to discuss space rocks.

Space rock aficionados from around the world are converging on New York City for the biggest ever meeting of the Meteoritical Society this week.

More than 500 meteorite experts from around the world will convene at the Park Central Hotel here for five days of presentations and discussion on topics ranging from the age of our solar system, how planets become habitable, and how often large meteoroids hit planets like Earth. The space rock meeting begins in earnest Monday.

The Meteoritical Society is a non-profit organization that promotes the study of extraterrestrial materials, including meteorites and other samples returned from space.

IN PICTURES: Meteor showers

"After many decades of great science, the international members of the Society are looking forward to coming to New York for the second time to hear about interesting new research and discoveries in extraterrestrial materials," said Hiroko Nagahara, professor at the University of Tokyo and president of the Meteoritical Society, in a statement. "I am also looking forward to awarding the highest honors from our Society."

Among the awards that will be presented this year is the prestigious Leonard medal which will go to Hiroshi Takeda of Japan's Chiba University for his analysis of meteorites as pieces of Mars.

"It's wonderful that so many international scientists can come to New York to share their research and discoveries," said Denton Ebel, curator in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the American Museum of Natural History and chair of the Meteoritical Society's Local Organizing Committee. "The city provides the perfect cosmopolitan environment to stimulate discussion, collaboration, and new ideas."

The American Museum of Natural History will also host the conference's Barringer Invitational Lecture. Sean Solomon, the principle investigator of the NASA's MESSENGER mission, which will study the planet Mercury. Solomon will present new discoveries that this spacecraft has already made, and will others that it is expected find when in orbit around our solar system's innermost planet.

IN PICTURES: Meteor showers

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