Purdue University; Martian Meteorite; Mars
A toxin that makes pigs vomit is the surprising key which has unlocked the century-old mystery of the origins of a Martian meteorite, and the possible identity of the Black student who discovered it.
In 1931, an unusual stone stored in the geological collection of Purdue University in the U.S. was identified as a pristine example of a meteorite—a piece of space rock blasted from the surface of Mars millions of years ago before being pulled into the Earth’s atmosphere.
However, just how and when the meteorite—which came to be known as Lafayette—ended up in Purdue’s collection has remained unclear for more than 90 years.
One potential origin story, reported by American meteorite collector Harvey Nininger in 1935, is that a Black student at Purdue University witnessed it land in a pond where he was fishing. He recovered it from the mud where it fell and donated it to the university.
Previous attempts to confirm the tale have been inconclusive. But now, a team of science sleuths have used cutting-edge analysis techniques and archive research to collect enough evidence to suggest that this story is true, that it happened in either 1919 or 1927, and that one of just four Black men could be the student who found Lafayette.