The iron meteorite, at the left, fell in Argentina, at Campo del Cielo, Gran Chaco Gualamba. Campo del Cielo means Field
of the Sky or Heaven. There's an oral tradition that says the
iron metal "fell from heaven."
There are at least 26 craters in an
area that's three kilometers wide by 20 kilometers long. The
total weight of its pieces is more than 1,000 tonnes (tonne=1000
kilograms). The largest piece weighed 37 tonnes. Considered as
one meteorite, the pieces together make it the heaviest ever recovered on
The specimen shown here weighs about nine
pounds, and its nickel content is 6.68%. It also contains gallium,
cobalt, germanium, phosphorus and iridium, the second densest element and a
metal of the platinum family.
The meteorite has regmaglypt
"thumbprints" caused by ablation as the meteor passed through the
atmosphere. Regmaglypts may be formed by vortices of hot gas.
The shape of the meteorite here, suggests a head, maybe a man of Colonial times.
The nickel-iron meteorite on the
right fell near Odessa, Texas, and weighs about 125 grams. This
meteorite is said to have fallen about 50,000 years ago making a crater 600
feet in diameter, and was discovered in 1923. Thousands of pieces have
been found and are in museums round the world. When cut and polished,
and etched, slices of it show a crystalline pattern called Widman-statten
lines. A publication by R. S. Dodson from Moorhead Planetarium, Chapel
Hill, North Carolina, says, "No natural terrestrial material produces these
lines, and all efforts to produce them on man-made alloys have failed."
A meteorite is a rock or chunk of metal or a
combination of the two, that falls from
outer space, surviving its burning entry through the earth's atmosphere.
When it is seen as a "falling star" it's called a meteor. When it's
still out in space, it's a meteoroid.
The word meteor comes from the
Greek meteōros, high in the air,
as does meteoric.
I wonder if this Greek word is partly derived the Greek meta, beyond
or after, for "high in the air" is beyond the surface of the earth. Meta is also found in
in the origin of metaphor, metamorphosis and metatarsus.
Meteorology comes from the Greek meteoron referring to something
happening or perceived in the sky. Meteorologica by
Aristotle in 340 BC was about "all phenomena above the ground."
The iron meteorite (left) fell during the day on Febr. 24, 1947, in the forests of the Sikhote-Alin
Mountains of eastern Russia at 46º
9' 36" N, 134º 39' 12"E,
It was witnessed as a fireball, brighter even than the sun , coming from the
north, descending at an angle of 41 degrees, and leaving a trail of smoke
and dust 20 miles long. The trail
lingered for hours. The
estimated speed of entry was 31,000 mph. On atmospheric entry, it
began breaking up, yet a group of pieces fell together. At an altitude
of 3 1/2 miles the largest mass apparently exploded. The fallen
fragments were strewn over an elliptical area of about half a square mile.
It made 106 impact holes, some pieces weighing up to 300 kilograms.
These meteorites are classified
into two groups. One type is composed of complete specimens, said to
have probably broken off early from the main body during its descent.
Their surface shows a fusion crust with ablation, being eroded and vaporized
as they passed through the atmosphere. They have the regmaglypts or thumbprints. The other type is composed of
fragments and show the violent effects of being torn apart from the apparent
explosion at 3 1/2 miles altitude or from the impact on the ground.
Some of this kind are said to be shrapnel-like, the specimen here was
thought to be one them. Angling down in the picture, from the
shiny spot, is a lightning-like zigzag highlight, pointing to the edge (on
the lower right) where the metal bends. The bend, perhaps from the
force of being blown away, is shown in the
picture on the right.―JR
A meteorite from Russia suggesting the profile of an
Indian face, even with eyelids. The shiny parts may simply be from
rust having been rubbed off.
While not visible in this picture, some of the thin
edges are bent, perhaps from being forcefully ejected outward from the main meteoric body as
Note the linear structure on the after part, perhaps indicating
the direction of the meteor's fall. You also see on the surface some
glob-like structures as if pasted on or even running down on "the chin."
One may wonder whether these were the result of a molten effect that stuck.
The meteorite is smaller than it appears here, being
short of two inches in width, yet by no means the smallest of
The origin of this specimen from Russia isn't known.
The meteorite at the left came from the B & G Rock Shop in
Sioux Falls, So. Dakota. It was found in China by Morton Hahn, known
to Bob Johnson of the rock shop. Called a Nantan
Iron Meteorite, it fell in 1516 and is recorded in Nantan Co. archives.
The record says stars fell from the northwest, "long waving like snakes and
dragons, bright like lightning." The area of the fall was around
17 miles long ,by five miles wide. In 1958 China needed steel
and people "were told to find heavy rocks rich with iron." However the
rocks wouldn't melt, and geologists discovered they were meteorites.
Below are two more meteorites from China,
looking like they are from the same fall.
Above, another meteorite from Campo del Cielo, Argentina. Weighing
about 15 oz., it seems to be a more solid chunk of metal than the
approximately nine lb. specimen from that location, shown at the
beginning of this page. Curiously, the larger one will flake off
material. This smaller one is pocked with a number of small "craters,"
one quite evident in this photograph, something like an eye socket.