Soko-Banja: LL4 Artillery from the Sky

The fall of the Soko-Banja, Serbia (Yugoslavia) chondrite

Like cement from the heavens, the Soko-Banja chondrite crashed into history back in 1877.

At approximately two in the afternoon on October 13, 1877, a thunderous noise described by witnesses as “Batteries of cannon firing briskly” was heard, followed by a “violent concussion of air.” Then rocks were strewn around the region.

Other witnesses further away described the event as “two explosions like salvoes of artillery accompanied by a brilliant display of light.” The light was described as like that which “attends the bursting of shells.”

Furthermore, a dense black smoke was observed quite high in the sky, and it “broke into three columns, and gradually changed to a white smoke.”

As an LL4 Chondrite, it has well preserved and spherical chondrules such as this beauty sprouting from bow of this space ship.

Another description of the fall described the noise as lasting “for some time, and then the sound resembled the firing of musketry. The air appeared to be shaken.”

Following the explosive sound, stones fell to earth in an area described as “a mile and a half in length and a half a mile in breadth.” In other words, a classic ellipsoid strewn field.

One stone, weighing 10 okas (~22.5 Austrian pounds), landed in front of a house burying itself “deep in the earth.” Another stone, this one weighing 30 okas landed at Scherbanowaz, near Rtanj Berg. Its mass of almost 70 Austrian pounds became the main mass of the fall now known as Soko-Banja.

Peasants in the area who experienced the fall described one stone the size of a sack of flour that struck a rocky surface and “was dashed to fragments.”

Additional descriptions of particular stones included one of 23 okas that fell in the village of Scherbanowaz, and “penetrated the soil to a depth of four feet.”

Another stone of 15 okas fell “near the vineyard at Soko-Banja, and reached a depth of three feet.”

Interesting dark inclusions abound in Soko-Banja. The contrast between the matrix and the inclusions was noted early in the published descriptions of these unusual stones from the sky.

One piece of note is a fragment described as 2 okas in weight and “fell on a pear tree, and then descended to the ground. A man under the tree took it in his hand, and received the impression that the mass was still warm.”

It was deduced that the explosion of the bolide occurred at 7000 meters above the earth due to the 25 second lag between light and sound.

The interior of the meteorite was described as consisting of “spherules of various sizes, some brown, some yellow, cemented together by and ash-grey material, and presents the appearance of a trachytic lava.”

The James DuPont Meteorite Collection let loose of this specimen back in April of 1995 where it entered the collection of Jim Schwade. A decade later it moved into my collection.

As a historical witnessed fall, Soko-Banja is a classic case doing more to confirm the understanding about meteorites at the time rather than adding new information. However, 137 years later, Soko-Banja is an important place holder in many institutions due to is relatively rare class of LL4, and by the collection of diverse but converging perspectives about its fall.

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.
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