Lecture: "Meteorites: Cosmic Messengers at the Natural History Museum in Vienna"

 Meteorites on display at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Photo:  NHM

Meteorites on display at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Photo: NHM

On October 28, 2015, Christian Köberl, director general of the Natural History Museum in Vienna (NHM), delivered a lecture entitled "Meteorites: Cosmic Messengers at the Natural History Museum in Vienna" at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

According to Köberl, the meteorites' composition is crucial for unraveling the physical and chemical processes of the early solar nebula, and to deduce the origin of the chemical elements. In some rare cases, there are unusual meteorite encounters with the Earth, such as the Tunguska (1908) or Chelkyabinsk (2013) airbursts, or devastating impact events. The importance of impact cratering on the Moon or the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars) is obvious from the abundance of craters on their surfaces. On Earth, active geological processes rapidly obliterate the cratering record. Impacts influenced the geological and biological evolution of our own planet. Even the impact of relatively small asteroids or comets can have disastrous consequences for our civilization.

The NHM Vienna is one of the world's largest and oldest natural science museums, and a research institution as well. It holds the oldest meteorite collection in the world, as well as the largest meteorite display, including many historical and scientifically important objects. The topics mentioned above are incorporated in the new meteorite hall at the museum. 

Christian Koeberl is the director general of the Natural History Museum Vienna, Austria, and full professor of geosciences (planetary geology) at the University of Vienna, where he is the deputy head of the Department of Lithospheric Research. He is a full member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, where he also heads the Committee on Geosciences. Koeberl studied chemistry, physics, and astronomy at the Technical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna, and obtained his PhD in 1983 at the University of Graz. His publication record includes over 400 peer-reviewed scientific papers; asteroid 15963 is named "Koeberl" in his honor.