13 Jul 12

A meteorite comes to Kassel

On Friday, July 13, 2012, Anton Zeilinger, Professor of Physics at the University of Vienna, Director of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and member of the Honorary Advisory Committee of dOCUMENTA (13), will bring to Kassel a fragment of a meteorite from the Campo del Cielo meteorite field in the Chaco province of northern Argentina, that has belonged to the collection of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna since 2004.

Image courtesy Anton Zeilinger and Naturhistorisches Museum, Wien.

This moment entangles Zeilinger’s experiments for dOCUMENTA (13) currently taking place in the Fridericianum, with the project of artists Guillermo Faivovich & Nicolás Goldberg for the exhibition. Faivovich & Goldberg’s proposal to temporarily transport to Kassel the largest meteorite of the Campo del Cielo field, the 37-ton Chaco, has remained unrealized due to the opposition of some representatives of indigenous communities in relation to rights of heritage. Should the project have been realized, it would have constituted a unique event—the heaviest single object to have been transported by humans on the planet.

Zeilinger has expressed the connections between his research and the Chaco meteorite project: “The meteorite shower entered the atmosphere around 4000 or 5000 years ago. The pueblos originarios called the site of impact pinguem nonraltá, which the Spanish translated into Campo del Cielo, because the people claimed that a mass had fallen from the sky. As late as around 1800, there were investigations and scientific publications by the French Academy claiming that there cannot be any meteorites because stones cannot fall from heaven.” However, Austria, where Zeilinger’s lab is located, was one of the first western countries to collect meteorites in the past, ignoring that generally acknowledged truth of scientific circles at the time (that meteorites from the sky could not exist). Therefore, the Vienna Naturhistorisches Museum has today one of the largest meteorite collections on earth.

Furthermore, another connection to Zeilinger’s experiments is that his team is planning to put some equipment similar to the hardware presented in the Fridericianum on a satellite to orbit the earth and establish quantum communication.

Zeilinger explains, “We have a connection between natural stuff falling down and man-made stuff, because our satellite will also fall down to earth some day. Some of our most recent experiments have been done at astronomical observatories in the Canary Islands and various people there are fascinated by the connection of the quantum and the cosmos in our work.”

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