When a Meteorite Find
Becomes a Meteorite Fall
On more than one occasion, the discovery of a meteorite, even though witnessed to fall by human or camera, has taken a long time to find. Even with the famous photographed Lost City stone, it still took almost a week just to locate the first of four pieces. Although a network of sophisticated sky cameras captured its decent, weeks of searching for black rocks on a white background (snow) were required to locate the rest of the family.
Here are a few other meteorites whose fall to earth was not always witnessed with eyes or cameras, but in each case, there is overwhelming evidence that the meteorite fell to earth in the presence of people, or within days or hours of its discovery. And in all these cases, to the point where denial of Fall status seems a greater transgression.
For this months
installment of the Accretion Desk, we will look as a few meteorites that
straddle the mildly blurry line between being a witnessed fall and a just
being another find.
Greenwell Springs, Louisiana
Fell: 1987, between November 23-30
Total known weight: 664 grams
Greenwell Springs is the poster-specimen for
Finds2Falls. Listed in both the British Catalogue and
Meteorites A-Z as a find, it is blatantly obvious
that this stone fell within days or even minutes of its
Even the famous New Orleans stone was not witnessed to fall, but the damage it caused to the home through which it fell placed it immediately in the Fall column. Unfortunately Greenwell Springs missed a house by only eight meters, but it did dent the lawn to a depth of 6cm if that helps.
Further, the catalog entries are based upon the Meteoritical Bulletin, but the actual article documenting the discovery of Greenwell Springs in Meteoritics is titled:
The Greenwell Springs LL4 Chondrite:
A New Fall from Louisiana, USA
According to the article by Byerly et. al. in Meteoritics 23, 359-360 (1988):
"On Monday 30 November 1987, Mr. Freddie Rapuana of Greenwell Springs, Louisiana found a 664 gm meteorite on his lawn. The Fall was not observed, but apparently took place during the preceding week. The meteorite was not in the yard during mowing one week earlier."
"A large daylight fireball was reported to Baton Rouge police on 25 November at 1630 hours local time, and an intense and "close" shooting star was reported by several individuals 28 November at 1830 hours local time"
"When initially brought to our attention the meteorite contained no evidence of rust-staining."
"Though its decent was not observed, the Greenwell Springs apparently fell within several days prior to its discovery."
*The above and below pictured 45g complete slice of Greenwell Springs resides in the author's collection.
|The flawless fusion crust on this slice looks just like it fell an hour ago. This is an especially powerful piece of evidence since the oppressively humid environs of Louisiana is one of the worst places on this planet for a meteorite. In fact, the stone that fell through a house in New Orleans had considerable rusting even though it was recovered quickly after the fall. Of course it ruptured a water pipe soaking itself upon arrival, but that is another story; in Meteorite (February 2004) to be exact.|
Fell: before 1868
Goalpara came to the attention of science in
1868. The accounts vary a little but it seems that the
2.7kg oriented individual was part of the jewel
collection of the Rajah of Goalpara. A collection that
was eventually given to the Calcutta Museum.
Further, the book, "Pictorial Catalogue On One Hundred Indian Meteorites", published by the Geological Survey of India states that Goalpara is a Fall with an unknown date and time
The crust on Goalpara is quite fresh with beautiful swirls of melted rock smeared across the exterior forever capturing the aerodynamic flows of hypersonic atmospheric passage.
*The above and below pictured 38g end section of the
Goalpara Ureilite. resides in the author's collection.
This sketch of the leading face of Goalpara shows the
impressive form that unfortunately has been cut. This
drawing appears in O. C. Farrington's self-published
(1915) book titled "Meteorites".
What are the chances that such a stone was simply picked up and kept as a curiosity in a collection of precious stones held by a powerful man? My feeling is that the fall of Goalpara was observed, and the witnesses) to the event collected the stone and brought it to the attention of whomever was in charge where it remained a prized possession.
|The interior of Goalpara presents the characteristic look of a ureilite. Cutting ureilites is a task few ever undertake. In many cases, saw blades are the obvious losers when fights break out between the cosmic created diamonds and the feeble steel of man.|
Binda, New South Wales, Australia
Fell: May 25, 1912
Binda was discovered in 1912, and is thought to be a
witnessed fall on May 12th of that same year. The stunning crust
and snowy interior attests to the freshness of this fall.
As is the problem with most of the Finds2Falls, there is only very convincing circumstantial evidence of being a fall, but without eye-witnesses, the best we can ever do is simply include our suspicions with each description of discovery.
*The above pictured 50g crusted fragment with two cut faces resides in the author's collection.
Tsarev, Volgograd region, Russia
Fell: December 6, 1922, between 1700 and 1800 hours
Tsarev (pronounced Tsar-ray-yov) seems such an obvious fall,
but still it is listed in both the Catalogue and Meteorites A-Z
as a 1968 find (but in defense of the Catalogue, it does say
Tsarev is a possible fall). Sure, pieces were found in 1968, but
there is an extensive collection of eyewitness accounts, and an
80 year history of specimens pulled from farm fields.
In fact, with over 1200kg of meteorites, the fall of Tsarev is the third largest stony meteorite shower in the world! As far as Find2Fall goes, this is a no-brainer. My thought is that the Catalogue, among others, should list Tsarev as a witnessed fall, and bury in the text any weak argument that is might be a find.
As evidence of its fall, one can read the first-hand account of a visit to the area in 1998 by the famous meteorite explorer Roy A. Gallant in his article in the November 1999 issue of Meteorite Magazine titled:
The Fiery Snake" of Tsarev: An account of the Russian stony shower
"heard six days before it struck," so some said.
Or in his online story titled The Tsarev Stony Meteorite Shower of 1922.
While there is no shortage of information and confusion surrounding the fall of Tsarev, the fantasy of imagination ran wild this fall, often to mythic proportions.
*The above pictured 118g polished quarter slice with weathered crust resides in the author's collection.
This cartoon of a giant meteorite (possibly Tsarev?) appeared in
a local newspaper. Other newspaper accounts offered:
"The meteorite is the size of a two story building."
The meteorite was, "the size of the city of Astrakhan and was made of solid gold."
"The meteor fell with a noise that was heard six days before the actual fall."
Fell: October 17, 1964, 1050 hours
Changxing, China, while not technically a Find2Fall in the
spirit of the others, is listed in the British Catalogue and in the
first edition of Meteorites A-Z as a 1964 find. However, in the
second edition of Meteorites A-Z, using an update of Chinese
meteorites published in Meteoritics 29: 886-890, Changxing is
now listed correctly as a witnessed fall at 1050 hours on October
Changxing is just another piece of evidence that there May be more find2fall hidden in our collections. Maybe all we need to do to gain more falls in our collections is to read and to wait.
*The above pictured 20g partial end section of Changxing resides in the author's' collection.