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This Candy Is From Heaven (But Don't Eat It)

Pop quiz: What is this thing?

Maybe it's because Halloween is right around the corner, but our first thought was, candy! Specifically, nougat — a confection made with nuts suspended in egg whites and sugar or honey. In Spain, it's called turron; in Italy, torrone. In the Provence region of France, it's one of 13 de rigueur desserts traditionally served during Christmas. Iranians have a version called gaz, sweetened with the sap of the desert plant gaz-angebin.

Nougat has been around for centuries. But what we're looking at is a whole lot older — and more heavenly.

It's a chunk of the Fukang Meteorite, found in China's Gobi Desert in 2000. Those enticing shiny "nuts" are bits of the mineral olivine, encased in a matrix of nickel-iron. This little beauty, a rarer type of meteorite called a pallasite, is 4.5 billion years old — a leftover from the birth of our solar system.

The nougat doppelganger was one of many meteorites up for auction last Sunday in New York. Asking price started at $100,000.

Alas, no one bit.

"It did not sell," says meteorite dealer Darryl Pitt, "and so we ate it, so to speak."

Perhaps it was because, as meteorite expert Meenakshi Wadhwa explains, it only looks like candy in pictures. In person, she tells The Salt, "it's clearly metal and stone."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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