The Fallen Sky

Weaving natural history, memoir, and in-depth profiles of amateur researchers, rogue scientists, and stargazing dreamers, a prizewinning poet and nature writer takes us from Antarctica to outer space to tell the epic story of how the study of meteorites became a modern science. Robert Peary, the fabled explorer who risked personal ruin— and the lives of his crew—in a mortally dangerous quest for massive iron meteorites in an Arctic wasteland. The NASA researcher who staked his reputation on a claim that Martian fossils fell from the sky and could be found in the Antarctic. A collector in the American West in the early 1900s who sacrificed home, marriage, and very nearly his sanity in a struggle to claim ownership of 15.5-ton meteorite. These characters and many other collectors, dreamers, schemers, and regular people caught up in the business and passion of shooting stars populate Christopher Cokinos’ natural history, The Fallen Sky . Through their successes and foibles, adventures and tragedies, triumphs and setbacks, Cokinos tells the story of how modern science came to understand meteorites—the rocks that fall to earth from the center of a meteor. Revered as sacred objects, sought-after as trophies of exploratory success, space-age novelty items, or scientific specimens, meteorites have a long and complex relationship with the people who collect them. Cokinos incisively examines the drama and history of the human pursuit of these pieces of fallen sky. In so doing, he travels the globe from Greenland to the deserts of the American Southwest to Antarctica, following the footsteps of scientists, enthusiasts, and explorers, and gaining access to their personal papers and documents, in a mission to understand the obsession that draws so many to these rocks that connect us the cosmos. This is an adventure story, a compelling work of first-person literary journalism, and a comprehensive scientific history, told through its most remarkable characters&