An December 1923 Witnessed Fall: Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
Breccia like you give a Damn.
(*and an important TKW discrepancy)
|Nothing shouts history like a good breccia. Not just earthly history, but 4.6 billion years of orbital adventures.
At 9:00 o’clock in the evening on the winter solstice of 1923, the earth welcomed the fifth and final witnessed meteorite fall for that year. Christened Nakhon Pathom, the meteorite fell about 10 km south-east of the Nakhon Pathom in the Don Yai Nom subdistrict of Thailand. The fall was collected quickly helping to preserve the specimen since the landing site was actually a swampy area.
Interestingly, the Nakhon Pathom meteorite was more than ten times larger than any other fall in 1923. And with a published total known weight of only 23.2* kg that says a lot.
|Two fragments of a single stone of Nakhon Pathom as they were originally discovered in a curio case in the National Museum of Bangkok by Mrs. Henderson who believed them to be meteoritic and bought them to the attention of her husband.
The above picture was taken in 1960 by Dr. Henderson.
Shortly after the fall, the two pieces of the single individual were housed in a curio case in the National Museum of Bangkok because of their “unusual properties.” Thirty-seven years after Nakhon Pathom fell, while on a visit to the museum the well known Dr. D. P. Henderson and his wife saw the “curios” and rightly suspected that they were meteorites.
Henderson took a photo of the two stones in situ in the National Museum of Bangkok. In the picture above, according to the article, the smaller portion on the left at weighed 9.6 kg that time, and the larger piece weighed 22.6 kg. The smaller of the two pieces was loaned to the US National Museum.
*Interestingly, if one adds the listed weights for the two pictured fragments, the total is 32.2 kg. I suspect that a simple typo transposing the digits in 32 to make a 23 has seeped its way through the meteorite literature including the Catalogue of Meteorites.
Nelen, J. & Fredricsson, K (1972). The Nakhon Pathom Meteorite. Mineral Sciences Investigations, 1969-1971. Smithsonian Contributions to the Earth Sciences (9) 1972.
|This 32.6g slice of Nakhon Pathom in my collection, would, using the Catalogue’s list of repositories, rank sixth largest in the world; just decigrams above the Max Planck Institute, and a few grams less than the specimen in the Institute of Meteoritics in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Today, according the Catalogue of Meteorites, the distribution of Nakhon Pathom material is as follows:
The main mass still resides in the Thailand
382 grams are in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum
130g are in the Natural History Museum in London
116g reside in the meteorite collection of Arizona State University
36g in the University of New Mexico collection
32g in the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany
|If this is not the most beautiful L6 in the world, I would like to know what is. A close runner-up might be St. Michel, an Finnish L6 that arrived to earth about 13.5 years before Nakhon Pathom.
Nakhon Pathom is classified as a humble L6 chondrite, but it is hardly ordinary. The brecciation is stunning, and the sharpness of those lovely circles we covet is dramatic especially for a type 6. While most of the circular features are not chondrules, like a coin in the grass, our collecting senses have been finely tuned to appreciate the presence of round designs in meteorites. Nakhon Pathom merely capitalizes on this “chondrule mimicry” making Nakhon Pathom more desirable than its class in life intended.
|The closer you look, the better Nakhon Pathom looks. Unlike many breccias, the sharpness between features and the contrast between colors maintains its presence even as you magnify the image.
It reminds me of a fractal. Each level of fragment size contains a smaller world of fragments, which in turn contains a yet another smaller world of fragments, and so on.
As the final Accretion Desk of 2009 rolls to a stop, I want to take a moment to thank all of my readers and wish you all well, and a happy holiday season as we journey together into yet another new year.
Until next time…
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