Wilder, Idaho: A Professional Grade Meteorite

Wilder, Idaho meteorite slice

Wilder is a handful for both the hand and the eye. But finding beauty in Wilder takes some skill and experience. But nothing is required to appreciate the rare bit of geography it was found in.

I’ve heard that the state of Idaho, if flattened, would be one of the largest continental states in the US. But of course it’s not. Instead Idaho is the left over after the surrounding states grabbed their territory. Essentially it’s an east-west state filled with north-south mountain ranges. Often it is easer to travel through a bordering state on your way to another point within Idaho, whether Montana, Oregon, or Washington.

Idaho is home to five known meteorites of which 40% are stones but none of them falls. The two non-iron meteorites were found about 150 miles by car from each other Although Idaho is a fairly large state, most of the flatter farmland where stone meteorites are most conspicuous is found in the southern region with leanings towards the west. So two stones a two-hour drive apart does not mean they have to be related. Even if they are the only two in the state.

Wilder is a stone meteorite found in 1982. initially a fellow named Alan Noe discovered a 1.970 kg piece of unusual rock in an unplowed field about 8 km north of the town of Wilder. Eight years later a second much larger piece of Wilder was found about 1.4 km further north of the first specimen. This second piece weighed in at 26.6 kg.

 

Wilder, Idaho meteorite slice

Wilder is an H5 chondrite with some shiny metal, but not near as much as it had when it fell long ago.

The city of Wilder “surrounded by vast agricultural lands growing a diverse variety of crops which include potatoes, sugar beets, onions, corn, grain, and mint. This area is unique in one crop, as it is known for growing “hops” which are used in the brewing of beer. “ At least according to their website. Any place that specializes in a beer-related commerce must be a good place, right? Seems not much else happens in Wilder given their state website has has a 2006 copyright date.

As an H5 chondrite, Wilder joins the ranks of the earth’s most popular meteorite type. And further, as a weathered chondrite, the most amazing thing about Wilder from a collection perspective, is that its from the US state of Idaho.

Wilder has a rusty exterior that surrounds a darker chondrule-filled matrix sprinkled with plenty of small metal flake. The visual appeal of this stone is more for the professional collector. To most, it is a dark brown matrix with darker brown or lighter brown chondrules, and the occasional grey one.

 

Wilder, Idaho meteorite slice

The inch-thick slice in my collection has a richly oxidized exterior classic of meteorites who fell decades to centuries before being found. The climate in southwest Idaho would certainly rust-up a meteorite faster than dryer, hotter regions like Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

The triangular complete slice in my collection is a handful at ~1kg. There is no published weathering number for Wilder, but the lack of any rimming indicates, in my mind anyway, that this stone is a W2-3-A using both designations as noted on of all things, the Wikipedia Meteorite Weathering page.

Wilder, Idaho meteorite slice

The “Professional Grade” nickname I have for Wilder is because its features are subtile. I’ve shown this slice to hundreds if not thousands of people, and very few ever spot any feature on their own, and just barely register interest in the highlights I point out.

There is still plenty of shiny metal in Wilder. However, Wilder is also a fairly porous meteorite dense with conspicuous but small holes throughout the matrix. In fact, there are so many holes that under magnification Wilder looks fibrous.

 

Wilder, Idaho meteorite slice

Age cannot hide wrinkles. The classic thumb printing is obvious on a slice this thick. It will take many more centuries to rust-out the hidden beauty hiding under the dirty coat on this once homeless stone.

Also from a collecting standpoint, the Wilder Meteorite is an excellent place holder for most collections given that it is a rarely available sample from the Gem State of Idaho. Yes, I do count myself lucky to have a very nice specimen of Wilder in my collection. But when next to my main mass of the Jerome, Idaho meteorite, Wilder is yet another great sample of a geographically rare stone only temporally preserved with me. But Jerome is a more personal story.

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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