When falling through our atmosphere on the way to an impact with the Earth, most meteorites spin and tumble, often acquiring the interesting sculptural shapes. A very few maintain a fixed orientation towards our planet's surface. Heat ablation may cause those meteorites to acquire a conical, dome, or shield-shape, reminiscent of the heat shield on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space mission capsules and such meteorites are described as being oriented.
Oriented meteorites typically also display a flat or concave trailing edge, and sometimes a rollover lip, where molten material has accumulated on the reverse side. The characteristics of oriented meteorites were studied by rocket ship designers. Oriented meteorites are very rare, and highly prized by collectors, as are rollover lips—a remarkable feature unique to space rocks.
Detail of a rollover lip on a Gao-Guenie stone meteorite
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Delicate rollover lip and flowlines on a rare Millbillillie eucrite meteorite from Australia
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Photographs by Suzanne Morrison © Aerolite Meteorites LLC
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