Meteorites

Kayakent

April's Meteorite of the Month is Kayakent, an iron (IIIAB) that fell in April of 1961, near the village of Kayakent, Turkey.
 
Photo © ASU/CMS: The cross-hatched structure in the metal (called Widmanstätten pattern) in this sample indicates extremely slow cooling, on the order of 10o Celsius per million years.
 
The meteorite was brought to the Department of Astronomy of Ege University in Izmir, and described by Professor A. Kizilirmak, Dr. V. Buchvald, and Center for Meteorite Studies Founding Director Carleton Moore.
 
Buchvald recounts the circumstances of the fall in The Handbook of Iron Meteorites:
"According to Professor Kizilirmak the mass was discovered in August 1961, but was associated by the villagers with a burst in the air at an uncertain date of April 1961. No crops reportedly grew within a circle 2 m in diameter around the small impact hole, 30 cm deep."
 
85 kg (~187 lb) of the Kayakent meteorite were recovered.
 

Peckelsheim

March's Meteorite of the Month is Peckelsheim, an achondrite (diogenite-pm) that fell the afternoon of March 3, 1953.

According to the Meteoritical Bulletin (MB 46), a group of workers in the forest outside of Peckelsheim, Germany, heard "a whine similar to that of shell-splinter" around 2:30 PM. The meteorite hit a tree branch, and landed at the feet of the workers.

Peckelsheim diogenitePeckelsheim is classified as a diogenite-pm, meaning that it is a polymict breccia from the diogenite group.  Part of the HED (Howardites, Eucrites and Diogenites) group of achondrites, diogenites are believed to originate in the crust of Asteroid 4-Vesta. According to radioisotope dating, the HED achondrites crystallized between 4.43 and 4.55 billion years ago. Diogenites are plutonic igneous rocks that form deep in the crust and cool very slowly, resulting in large crystals.

They are named for the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, who was the first to suggest that meteorites were not terrestrial rocks, and actually originated in space.

Approximately 118 g (just over 4 oz) of the Peckelsheim meteorite were recovered.

In 2007, NASA launched the Dawn mission to study Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.  The mission's goal was to provide insight into the formation and evolution of solid bodies in the early Solar System using a visible camera, a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer. The extremely detailed images Dawn captured of Vesta's surface enabled the compiliation of high-resolution global geological and tectonic maps of Vesta.

Watch the video below for some of the Dawn mission's greatest hits from Vesta!

Paragould

February 17, 2020, marks the 90th anniversary of the fall of the Paragould meteorite, an ordinary (LL5) chondrite that landed in Arkansas during the early morning hours of February 17, 1930.
 
The fall was observed by several witnesses hundreds of miles from the meteorite's eventual landing site in Paragould, Arkansas.  These included the engineer of a Santa Fe passenger train who was so convinced he had witnessed an aircraft fire that he wired back to suggest a search once he reached Topeka, Kansas, and a garage night man in East St. Louis, Illinois, whose proximity to the Park Airfield also led him to believe the bollide to be an aircraft in distress.
 
Paragould newspaper article from 1930
Belvidere Daily Republican – Friday, June 6, 1930, page 1: "Oliver C. Farrington, curator of geology at the Field Museum, inspects the Paragould meteoric stone, the largest ever seen to fall, which has just been acquired and delivered to the Chicago museum. It fell at Paragould, Arkansas, February 17, 1930, and penetrated the earth nine feet. It weighs 820 pounds."
Closer to Paragould, the detonation associated with the meteorite entering Earth's atmosphere caused livestock to stampede and startled residents. One account described "an explosion which jarred things like an earthquake" after seeing the fireball, noting that "the first blast seemed to come from about where the meteor had disappeared, and following this a roar, as though a train were passing, rolled back along the path of the meteor", with "rumbling being audible for perhaps half a minute".
 
The first Paragould stone, which weighed approximately 80 lb, was discovered later the same morning by a farmer near the town of Finch, as he went to collect his horses from the field. He contacted Dr. Harvey H. Nininger, an instructor at MacPherson College in Kansas, who made plans to drive to Paragould. The farmer then loaned the meteorite to the local high school for exhibit, and was dismayed to learn, soon after, that the school's science teacher had sold the stone to a collector from Michigan.
 
W
H.H. Nininger
H.H. Nininger (Photo copyright 1972, Paul S. Eriksson, Inc.)
hen Nininger arrived in Paragould only to find the meteorite sold and gone, he made the best of things by investigating the crater formed by the first stone (the farmer had preserved it, thinking it might be important) and the site of two other small stones' impact, and interviewing witnesses. Based on accounts, he surmised that there must be another, larger stone and plotted the meteorite's course on a map. Sure enough, an 800 lb meteorite was found shortly thereafter, resting in a hole 8 feet deep, directly on the line Nininger had drawn on the map.
 
While Nininger was eventually able to purchase this large piece of Paragould, the finder had solicited bids from others, including a large institution. As Nininger describes in "Find a Falling Star", this drove the cost of the meteorite high enough that he would need to sell it, himself, in order to recoup his investment:
"The Paragould meteorite had profound effects on our lives. I have never ceased to regret parting with it, but I had paid a price too high, and was forced to give up either the specimen or my dream of making meteorites a new vocation."
 
WIth the proceeds from the sale of the Paragould meteorite, Nininger was able to resign his teaching post and devote his time entirely to the science of meteorites.
 
At the time of its fall, Paragould was the largest ever meteorite recovered from a witnessed fall in the US, with a total recovered mass of 408 kg
 
Further reading:
 
Nininger, H.H. Find a Falling Star. New York, P.S. Eriksson Inc, 1972.

 

 

Benton

January's Meteorite of the Month is Benton, an (LL6) ordinary chondrite that fell in York County, New Brunswick, in 1949.

The Benton meteorite's fiery entry into Earth's atmosphere was witnessed January 16, in overcast twilight conditions, and the meteorite itself was quickly collected.

Benton is the only meteorite from New Brunswick. To date, 2.84 kg (6¼ lb) have been recovered. 

Ourique

December's Meteorite of the Month is Ourique, an (H4) ordinary chondrite that fell in the early hours December 28, 1998, in Aldea del Palhieros, Baixa Alentejo, Portugal.

According to the Meteoritical Bulletin (MB 83):
Many stones with a total mass probably near 20 kg were recovered along a rural path after a brilliant fireball and loud noises were observed by several people. Antonio Silva recovered the first fragments two days after the fall and, subsequently, local villagers recovered other pieces. The meteorite made an elliptical crater … and most fragments were found within 55 m of the others.
 
Villagers who were up celebrating the winter holidays described a bright light in the sky that grew larger and larger; because they were at the endpoint of the meteorite's impact trajectory, they could see no lateral fireball movement. The Ourique meteorite fall created a 60 cm x 30 cm (24" x 12") crater, 20 cm (8") deep.
 

Manitouwabing

November's Meteorite of the Month is Manitouwabing, an iron (IIIAB) meteorite found south of Manitouwabing Lake, Ontario, Canada, in November of 1962.

In his 1964 paper, The Metallography of Manitouwabing, Parry Sound, Ontario: A New Canadian Siderite, R. Knox Jr. describes how the meteorite was identified:

About a dozen years ago Philip Johnson, a furniture manufacturer of Parry Sound, Ontario, did some blasting on his property near Lake Manitouwabing, between the villages of Hurdville and Broadbent in the Parry Sound District. Some of the rocks loosened by the blast were selected for mineral assaying; the remainder were placed in a pile and all but forgotten until the autumn of 1962, when Johnson returned to the pile for additional samples. Among these latter, … was an eighty-five pound black rock, which, Johnson feels, was not part of the original pile.

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Donald Hunter, an amateur geologist, … visited the Johnson shop on camp business. She chanced to see the peculiar black rock and, thinking it might be a meteorite, promptly notified the University of Toronto. Dr. Peter Peach and Dr. Donald Gorman, both of the University's Department of Geology, visited Parry Sound and confirmed Mrs. Hunter's diagnosis.

While the Meteoritical Bulletin (MB 26) entry for Manitouwabing lists the original fall date as no earlier than the summer of 1949, Knox's 1964 paper refers to "considerable evidence – not yet conclusive -" that would suggest the meteorite fell on an early winter morning in 1954.

The Manitouwabing meteorite weighs in at 39 kg (86 lb), and is one of 8 iron meteorites recovered in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Manitouwabing

Hamlet

October's Meteorite of the Month is Hamlet, an ordinary (LL4) chondrite that fell the evening of October 13th, 1959, in Indiana.

According to the Meteoritical Bulletin (MB 17):

The meteorite struck a house, breaking off a piece of the gutter, and was found in the yard about 30 minutes after its fall. The stone has a conical shape; however, a piece broke off the apex before it was recovered and is still missing.

Four years later, the missing piece was found in a farm pasture approximately 0.4 km (~ 1/4 mile) from where the first stone was recovered (MB 34).  The two Hamlet stones had a combined mass of 3.71 kg (8.2 lb).

Read about the meteorite's reception in Hamlet, as told by a former resident of the town and recorded by the Starke County Historical Society!

Murchison

September 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the Murchison meteorite fall, one of the most scientifically important in human history.  This carbonaceous (CM2) chondrite was witnessed entering Earth's atmosphere the between 10:45 and 11:00 AM, in Victoria, Australia.  The meteorite broke up as it fell, and several fragments were recovered, totalling over 100 kg (220 lb). Some specimens landed on a road, but the largest recovered piece fell through a roof, into some hay.

Murchison fell shortly after brand new clean laboratories were assembled in anticipation of the Apollo lunar sample return mission, providing a contaminant-free environment in which to study this organic-rich meteorite.

It was by studying Murchison that a team of researchers including Center Founding Director Dr. Carleton B. Moore discovered the first evidence of extraterrestrial amino acids in 1970 (Kvenvolden et al.). A later study showed evidence for the presence of important components of DNA and RNA, called nucleobases, in Murchison (Martins et al., 2008), and the findings of a 2018 paper authored by ASU Emeritus Professor Sandra Pizzarello and Dr. Christopher Yarnes suggest that chiral molecules necessary for life may have come to Earth via meteorites such as Murchison.

Photo ⓒ ASU/CMS/D. Ball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty years after its fall, the Murchison meteorite remains one of the most studied space rocks, and is still the subject of active research at ASU. 

In a recent video produced by National Public Radio's Science Friday, Center Meteorite Curator Dr. Laurence Garvie discusses the importance of meteorites, including Murchison, and even describes the meteorite's particular odor – click here to watch.

Could Murchison and meteorites like it hold the key to how life formed on Earth? Visit the Meteorite Gallery to see this fascinating meteorite on display!

 

Breitscheid

August's Meteorite of the Month is Breitscheid, an ordinary (H5) chondrite that fell the afternoon of August 11, 1956, in Hesse, Germany.

According to the Meteoritical Bulletin (MB 2):

The fall of the meteorite was observed as a short, light yellow, somewhat reddish fiery trail. Judging by the broken branches of trees and the aspect of the hole, it may be concluded that the meteorite fell from west to east at an angle of 45°. During the fall, sounds were heard resembling a locomo­tive letting out steam. No crash was heard. The meteorite was found 30 min. after its fall. The person who discovered the stone thought it must have fallen from an aeroplane that had recently flown past and that it was of no scientific value whatever.

To date, 1.5 kg (33 lb) of the Breitscheid meteorite have been recovered.

Breitscheid meteorite

Thuathe

July's Meteorite of the Month is Thuathe, an ordinary (H4/5) chondrite that fell in Lesotho the afternoon of July 21, 2002.

According to the Meteoritical Bulletin (MB 87), the meteorite exploded over Lesotho, approximately 12 km east of the capital city of Maseru.

The explosion was accompanied by an extraordinarily loud, 15 s long noise which was heard over a large (100 km radius) area of Lesotho; the fall was eye-witnessed by several people who reported sightings of dust trails of "sparkling objects" over Lesotho and the southern part of the Free State Province of South Africa.  Many villagers of Ha Ralimo, Boqate Ha Majara, and Boqate Ha Sofonia reported falls of stones close to themselves and onto their homes.

To date, over 45 kg (almost 100 lb) of the Thuathe meteorite have been recovered.

Read more about the Thuathe meteorite fall, including eye-witness accounts, here!