An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine
by Martin Horejsi of  Martin Horejsi's Meteorite and Tektite Books
 

 

262 Years of Meteorites in 30 Days

The past month has been a very good one for the Accretion Desk doing what it does best, accreting.

No less than 13 fabulous meteorites entered the collection. Each of the specimens has crust, five are complete individuals and three are end sections. All were witnessed falls, and even more exciting is that the number of years between the oldest fall to the most recent is a stunning 262 years!

This month’s installment of the Accretion Desk will be a trip back in time beginning with the Park Forest fall earlier this year, and then flipping the calendar pages backward through the decades and centuries to the year 1741 when the Ogi meteorite fell in Japan.

In retrospect, I can think of no phrase better defining the past month of meteorite collecting for the Accretion Desk except the classic Latin words Carpe Diem. Well, Maybe a better phrase would be Carpe Meteorite!

Enjoy your trip through meteorite history.

(as usual, a one cubic centimeter cube is included for scale)


2003 March 26

Park Forest, Illinois, USA

L5 Impact Melt Breccia

On March 26, 2003, six days after US rockets first lit up the sky over Baghdad, a cosmic missile attacked the hamlet of Park Forest, Illinois. The police among others captured the arrival of these inner-planetary perpetrators on film. Upon landing, some of the extraterrestrial invaders remodeled homes while others bounced off a few choice objects including a yellow-painted curb, part of which is still attached to the upper-right edge of this slice.

Park Forest also produced meteorites of wondrous internal diversity. The textures visible in slices of Park Forest range from the rather homogeneous muted gray common to many type 5 chondrites, to light and dark melt-looking regions, to wildly brecciated geologic pictures solidifying the evidence of life in a hostile environment.


1997 September 1

Worden, Michigan, USA

L5 Chondrite

As only the fourth witnessed meteorite fall in the Wolverine State, Worden is the second to have hit a house! Like a thief in the night, well actually the late afternoon, Worden punched right through the wooden roof of Duane Foster’s garage, but it didn’t pack the punch needed to make it through the steel roof of his car though Worden did give it a good try.

This slice, the third largest piece of Worden in any collection, still wears the bloody scars inflicted by the red automotive paint during this most cosmic of car accidents.


1985 January 6

La Criolla, Argentina

L6 Chondrite

The strewnfield of La Criolla stretches 10km in its longest dimension, and the Catalogue reports that “tens of crusted stones” were recovered. This gorgeous individual has been safely preserved since the time it fell, but many individuals from this locality have been sliced like bread and sandwiched into collections throughout the world.

Thankfully, this completely crusted beauty has finally survived on earth long enough for its value as a whole stone to be worth considerably more than the sum of its parts.


1978 December 15

Neuvo Mercurio, Mexico

H5 Chondrite

As the bolide shot across the sky, the stresses of flight became more than the stone could bear. Still carrying the speed of ablation, the chemical bonds of its geology succumbed to the force of its impact with air molecules, and the stone violently ended its life of solidarity. Witnesses to the event saw an explosion as the fireball blew into thousands of pieces. Over three hundred of those pieces were recovered and subsequently labled as being individuals of the Nuevo Mercurio meteorite fall.

After loosing the battle in the air, the forces of weathering on the ground soon attacked these space gems. Luckily, friendly forces quickly mounted a rescue operation and saved many of the stones, both intact ones and those with minor and serious injuries. This survivor suffered just a few tiny flesh wounds, but overall its pleasant flowlines and other crustal details are in fine shape.


1976 March 8

Jilin, China

H5 Chondrite

Over four tons of this meteorite fell to the ground with the largest individual, a world record setting 1770kg!

This beautiful completely crusted complete stone is one of the rare individuals that made the journey along side the champion stone. Given the degree to which those in China watch astronomical happenings, it is somewhat surprising that this meteorite’s fall, only six months and a day before the death of Chairman Mao, was not viewed as a greater sign of things to come.


1959, March 8

Hamlet, Indiana

LL4 Chondrite

Another house hitter, the 2kg Hamlet stone bounced off a home in Indiana only to be found 30 minutes later laying unconcious in the street.

The fresh black crust on this part slice attests to its quick recovery from the humid March morning. Another piece of Hamlet was discovered almost four years later bringing the total known weight up to a paltry 3.7kg.


1947 February 12

Sikhote-Alin, USSR

Iron, Coarsest Octahedrite, IIB

Described as a shower of fireballs, the space invaders attacking earth disguised as the Sikhote-Alin meteorite fall arrived in many different space ships. This one resembles the NASA X-33 RLV (reusable launch vehicle).

Note the flowlines radiating off the center of the nose cone, and the concentric bands possibly from the thermal gradient created as this ship began its aerobraking maneuvers in the earth’s atmosphere. But alas, like most oriented meteorites, capturing the exquisite form on film is difficult.


1943 November 25

Leedey, Oklahoma, USA

L6 Chondrite

At seven in the evening, a shower of stones rained down on the plains of Oklahoma. This is a corner-end section of one of the 20 or so stones recovered from the fall. It is accompanied by a handwritten note. The 489.21 number is from the Nininger collection, and the M39.11 number is from the Monnig Collection.


1939, May 2

Kendleton, Texas

L4 Chondrite

The recovery of specimens from the Kendleton meteorite fall was one of calculated science. Observations of the fireball and photographs of the resulting trail were used to trace the path the meteorite took on its plunge to earth.

A total of 6937g were recovered in the form of 13 complete stones and 15 fragments. Wearing the badges of two prior collections, the numbers adorning this end section offer insight into its travels once safely on this planet.


1838 October 13

Cold Bokkeveld, South Africa

CM2 Carbonaceous Chondrite

We have no one but the good-hearted people of South Africa for saving pieces of the rare and fragile CM2 named for the Cold Bokkeveld Mountains in Cape Province.

In 1858, the German Chemist Friedrich Wöhler was one of the first scientists to identify organic material in meteorites, namely the Cold Bokkeveld stone. His work supported the belief at the time that the organics in meteorites were biological and thus extraterrestrial life was possible. Are we not there yet again?


1813, December 13

Luotolax, Finland

Howardite

I don’t know which is more rare, Howardites, falls from Finland, or meteorites from the first quarter of the 1800’s. But it doesn’t matter with Luotolax since this triple play is all three. At 10 in the morning a few stones from a Vesta-like asteroid fell onto an ice covered lake about six degrees shy of the Arctic Circle. At just eight days before the winter solstice, northern Finland was dark and cold on that December morning; not exactly good meteorite hunting conditions.

A painfully small amount of this rare blend of eucrite and diogenite material was preserved. Most sources suggest the preserved weight is a little more than half a kilogram. Regardless, this crusted slice is almost twice the size of the piece listed in the Catalogue as the representation of Luotolax in the US National Museum collection.


1808, May 22

Stannern, Czechoslovakia

Eucrite

No doubt the 6AM sonic boom accompanying the fall of the Stannern meteorite woke the folks living in the small Czech town of Iglau nearly two centuries ago.

Early accounts report that hundreds of stones fell, but only 66 were recovered. Given the large distribution of pieces of Stannern in collections worldwide, I suspect that the number of 100-percent fusion crusted complete individuals are countable on the fingers of single pair of hands, and quite possibly on one hand.

The shiny calcium-rich crust has the luster of liquid tar, and it is surprisingly light for its size as compared to chondrites. I can only hope that no amount of money will ever tempt my great-great grandchildren to slice into this precious gemstone from space. Especially since it was the brethren of my great-great-great-great-great-great Czech ancestry who preserved it for me.


1741 June 8

Ogi, Japan

H6 Chondrite

If only all meteorites could be as rich in tradition as the Ogi meteorite. When this shower of four stones fell on the northern Japanese island of Honshu, the 14kg of meteorites were carefully collected and preserved in a family temple, protected by priests for over 200 years. In 1883, the British Natural History Museum was able to acquire four kilograms of Ogi, and 120 years later a crusted fragment made its way to me.

As the story goes (as printed in Burke, 1986), “An annual festival celebrated the rendezvous of the goddess Shokuja and her consort, who are identified with the constellations Lyra and Aquila and separated by the river of heaven, the Milky Way. No bridge spans the river, but on the festival night a huge jay spreads his wings across it and permits the two constellations to meet. Stones, once used to steady the loom of Lyra, the weaver, fell from the shores of the Milky Way to earth.”


The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.

accretiondesk@gmail.com