HELENA — After one year, the Montana Learning Center near Helena has formally classified the first meteorite in its collection.
Originally found near the Sahara Desert in 2022, the space rock Northwest Africa 15913 is one of 15,000 found in that area, and it is believed to be more than 4.5 billion years old.
Montana Learning Center (MLC) is one of two Montana partners with NASA; the second is Montana State University.
The director of MLC, Ryan Hannahoe, first learned of the meteorite through a colleague in Minnesota. Once researched and classified at the University of Washington and Brown University, he received the rock.
"Most of the meteorites that we acquire have already been classified. This is the first time that we are going through the process of classification and working with researchers from around the world," said Hannahoe.
There are three kinds of meteorites: stony, iron, and a mixture.
Hannahoe said, "What makes it so special is it's a stony meteorite. It's got a lot of carbon in it, so it's carbon-based."
Stony carbon-based meteorites are extremely rare, with only 33 others known to man, which is .042% of meteorites.
For those wanting to see the meteorite, Hannahoe says spring may be the best option when they attend the annual Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show at Helena's Civic Center.
Another way to get involved with MLC is through their summer camps, which open registration in February. Last year, they booked out in a month.
The organization will also receive a new telescope this spring for their star viewing parties, and they are raising $60,000 for a portable planetarium that they hope to bring to schools.
To donate or volunteer, visit their website at https://montanalearning.org/
MLC still has more meteorites to classify and hopes to announce its second in January.