Knights at the Museum

Joseph Boesenberg, ’92, ’95, ’07
Senior Scientific Assistant, Earth and Planetary Sciences

The first rock this meteorite specialist researched was a Moon specimen he studied at Rutgers. See that Moon meteorite and one of the meteorites at the American Museum of Natural History that he now studies, a pallasite studded with olivine crystals—better known as peridot, the August birthstone.

  • Joe Boesenberg has three Rutgers geology degrees.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Joe Boesenberg has three Rutgers geology degrees. In 1994, Boesenberg's master's thesis adviser, Rutgers geologist Jeremy (Jerry) Delaney, passed along a job tip: American Museum of Natural History meteorite curator Marty Prinz was looking for an assistant. Boesenberg, whose thesis was on meteorites, got the job, and has been at the museum ever since.

  • Boesenberg studied this Moon meteorite at Rutgers.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    "The very first rock I ever did research on was this meteorite from the Moon I studied with Jerry Delaney for my undergraduate senior project. This hooked me on a geology career." Called Elephant Moraine 87521, the lunar meteorite was found in Antarctica in 1987. This sample, about 5-mm wide, is shown in polarized light allowing different mineral grains to be easily seen.

  • A stony-iron meteorite called a pallasite.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Boesenberg now studies stony-iron meteorites called pallasites. Composed of olivine and set in iron-nickel metal, pallasites are formed in partially melted asteroids and hold clues to how planetary bodies form. The pallasite above, called Esquel, is on display in the museum's Hall of Meteorites.

  • NASA/National Science Foundation Antarctic Search for Meteorites project.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    As part of the 2005–2006 NASA/National Science Foundation-sponsored Antarctic Search for Meteorites project, Boesenberg, kneeling on the far right, lived in the Antarctic for six weeks. While there, the team collected 170 meteorites in a region called Miller Range, about 400 miles from the South Pole. Boesenberg hopes to be part of the 2010–2011 expedition.

  •  Exploring a windscoop, a region of an ice-covered mountain that is free of ice.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    The collection team explores a windscoop, a region around the peak of an ice-covered mountain that is free of ice due to wind ablation. "A good portion of the time is spent riding snowmobiles over sky-blue ice looking for meteorites."

  • A chondrite meteorite found in Antarctica.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Boesenberg says this chondrite find is "the real reason for going to Antarctica." Accounting for about 85 percent of all meteorites on Earth, the chondrite is a primitive meteorite that represents the original building blocks of the planets and is compositionally identical to the sun—minus the volatile gaseous elements, like hydrogen and helium.

  • Inverted turret of the USS Monitor.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    While working on his Ph.D., Boesenberg melded his love of geology and history, studying a fragment of the Civil War vessel, the USS Monitor. Pallasites and the Monitor's metal both contain phosphoran olivine. The ship's inverted turret is shown here about two years after it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean seafloor.

  • Wrought iron disk from the Monitor's hull.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Boesenberg studied this one-inch diameter wrought iron disk from the Monitor's hull. The sample was analyzed and its mineral composition determined, including the presence of phosphoran olivine. In 2006, Boesenberg published an article on the ship's manufacture in the journal Archaeometry.

  • Joe Boesenberg in the American Museum of Natural History Roosevelt Rotunda.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Boesenberg says "the biggest boost to my career was my Rutgers professor, Jerry Delaney. Jerry continues to be a great friend and mentor to this day." Photos 1 and 8 by John Emerson. Additional images courtesy Joseph Boesenberg.

  • Joe Boesenberg has three Rutgers geology degrees.
    1/9
  • Boesenberg studied this Moon meteorite at Rutgers.
    2/9
  • A stony-iron meteorite called a pallasite.
    3/9
  • NASA/National Science Foundation Antarctic Search for Meteorites project.
    4/9
  •  Exploring a windscoop, a region of an ice-covered mountain that is free of ice.
    5/9
  • A chondrite meteorite found in Antarctica.
    6/9
  • Inverted turret of the USS Monitor.
    7/9
  • Wrought iron disk from the Monitor's hull.
    8/9
  • Joe Boesenberg in the American Museum of Natural History Roosevelt Rotunda.
    9/9