Two days after Christmas back in 1972, a meteor headed west across the sky over southwest Paraná State in Brazil. Described as an “airplane on fire” and a “flying torch” the bright light broke up and left a trail of smoke that floated in the cloudless morning sky for more than 15 minutes.
Machine guns came to mind to those who heard the meteor, and nearby homes shook with the concussions rattling the windows. When the dust settled, a strewn field stretching 40km yielded seven kilograms of H6 regolith breccia, the largest of which was 2.65kg.
In 1999, meteorite collector extraordinaire Jim Schwade acquired a small piece of what is now called the Ipiranga meteorite fall from the estate of Dr. Elbert A. King, Jr. who had died one year earlier. Dr. King was famous in NASA circles as a trainer of astronauts, published author, and the first curator of the Lunar Samples Laboratory Facility at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. King’s book Moon Trip: A Personal Account of the Apollo Program and its Science is available free online on the Lunar & Planetary Institute website.
Less than a decade later, the sample of Ipiranga again changed hands and landed in my collection. The seven gram specimen is a crust covered corner fragment with two internal faces, one fractured and one ground and polished.
The light colored and heavily shocked matrix is similar in appearance to the Peekskill meteorite, another H6 breccia that fell 20 years after Ipiranga. Although the distribution of Ipiranga is somewhat limited with a majority of the material in two locations, research has been done on the stone. In a Meteoritics article (Vol. 10, p.380, December 1975) titled The chondritic shower of Lajeado Ipiranga, Paraná, Brazil, the authors concluded that “Its most interesting feature is the presence of several turbid glass chondrules with evident shock effects.”
Ipiranga is one of many meteorites from Brazil. One of many falls, in fact. But as a regolith breccia, I believe that it has more to tell us beyond containing turbid glass.
I’ll wrap this up with some words from Dr. Elbert A. King, Jr. regarding the human exploration of Mars:
“The excitement of the Apollo program was that it accomplished a bold leap from the surface of the Earth to the Moon. The deed challenged our technology and engineering skill. Deliberate preparations are being made now for another and even more daring leap. When it comes, I dearly hope the United States will lead in the endeavor. We must!”
I sure hope he is right.
Until next time….