Hamlet: An Eye for an Eye. A Satellite for a Stone.

First, let me say that it’s really great to be here. Frankly, it was getting pretty nip-and-tuck as the fuse on 2012 burned short, but as we all discovered, 2013 arrived on schedule and in like-new condition.

So now we can all shift our attention to the next world-ending event. If you are like me and enjoy having constant reminders of the impending total destruction of our planet, just subscribe to the WebCal End of the World Events for your iPhone iCal app. With that app there’s no chance that you’ll miss out on a full-scale planetary destruction event!

The Explorer VII satellite prior to launch a mere ~12 hours before the Hamlet meteorite fell.

At 9:36 in the morning Central Time in 1959, the United States launched the Explorer 7 Satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Explorer 7 carried a radiometer invented by Verner E. Suomi, as well as instruments allowing the first measurements from space of Earth’s radiation and the first climatological studies. But it also carried a secondary instrument destined to measure the effects of micrometeorite impacts. By 9:05pm that same day, space threw back at us a meteorite that was studied for cosmogenic nuclides.

The Hamlet Meteorite

A hamlet, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a group of houses, or small village without a church. Hamlet is also a meteorite that I find interesting since the Hamlet meteorite happens to also be a “house hammer” meaning it struck a house on its way down. According to the Meteoritical Bulletin, the global repository of such things and citing a letter from Dr. E.P. Henderson to E.L. Krinov dated January 18, 1960.

A slice of Hamlet.

Showing one facet of the LL4 structure, clearly defined chondrules cover the surface. Notice the huge structure hiding on the left. It is a portion of what is often called a megachondrule.

“The meteorite struck a house, breaking a piece off 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.”
Crust on Halmet

Crust is a valuable asset to any meteorite, especially a witnessed fall that hit a house. Here, the blackish-grey crust guards the parameter of this slice.

As if the Hamlet’s arrival was not exciting enough, it also happened to be of mildly rare type of ordinary chondrite, an LL4. Additionally, the single specimen recovered from the fall weighed just a hair over 2k. Two thousand forty-five grams to be exact.

Indiana is no stranger to meteorites with five witnessed falls and eight finds. About half are chondrites, and with one exception, the other half are irons. But oh what an exception! The Lafayette meteorite was found in Indiana-in the Purdue University mineral collection to be exact (labeled as a lowly “Glacial Pebble” to be specific), and identified as a meteorite in 1931. Later, it was discovered that Lafayette is a SNC, and like all SNCs it came from Mars. And if that weren’t enough, Lafayette is one of the most beautiful oriented stone meteorites of any flavor of classification.

The Indiana SNC named Lafayette

Lafayette is a showpiece in the Smithsonian collection displaying what is arguably the finest radiating flowlines on an oriented stone meteorite.

The other side of Hamlet.

A much fresher slide of Hamlet. Due to the cutting of this side of the slice long after its 1959 fall, the hostile earthly atmosphere has had less time to do its damage.

Hamlet has a plethora of desirable features, so its value to collectors is high. Luckily it is available to those who amass witnessed falls, but not too available. Still, since if you are reading this, you have safely transected the dangers of 2012, and can continue your collecting for another year. And if you happen not to have Hamlet in your collection and there is still room on your New Year’s Resolutions, I’d suggest adding “acquire Hamlet” to the list.

Until next time….





About the Author

Martin Horejsi
Dr. Martin Horejsi is a Professor of Instructional Technology and Science Education at The University of Montana. A long-time meteorite collector and writer, before publishing his column The Accretion Desk in The Meteorite Times, he contributed often and wrote the column From The Strewnfields in Meteorite Magazine. Horejsi is currently a monthly columnist in The Science Teacher, a journal by the National Science Teachers Association. Horejsi specializes in the collection and study of historic witnessed fall meteorites with the older, smaller, and rarer the better. Although his meteorite collection once numbered over a thousand pieces with near that many different locations, several large trades and sales have streamlined the collection to about 250 locations with all but 10 being important witnessed falls. Many of the significant specimens in Horejsi's collection are historic witnessed falls that once occupied prominence in the meteorite collections of Robert A. Haag, James Schwade, and Michael Farmer. Other important specimens were acquired through institutional trades including those from The Smithsonian Institution, Arizona State University, and other universities.