30-ton Meteorite Discovered in Argentina

El Chaco
Image Credit: Scheihing Edgardo - Flickr: Meteorito El Chaco Meteorito_El_Chaco_100_2422, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24765053

The strewn field of Argentina has captivated people for centuries, and early man used to visit the site to gather pieces of metal in order to build iron tools. In the 16th century, the Spanish became intrigued by local stories of pieces of iron falling from the sky, and in 1774 explorers scouring the area recovered a huge meteorite which was named Mesón de Fierro (Table of Iron).

Explorations of Campo del Cielo has continued in the modern era, and to date more than 100 tons of meteorite have been recovered, making the 3km x 19km strewn field the region with the highest concentration of meteorites anywhere on the planet. The iron fragments found there are believed to have fallen somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago, with one impressive find at El Chaco yielding a 37-ton mass meteorite that still remains at the site. Needless to say, it is somewhat of an attraction, and tourists come from far and wide to have their pictures taken in front of the huge boulder.

Recently, a team of researchers found another massive meteorite at Campo del Cielo, and on September 10, 2016 managed to extract it completely using a massive crane. The polycrystalline coarse octahedrite in question is composed of around 90% iron, 7% nickel, and has been nicknamed Gancedo after the nearby town which provided equipment to help extract it from the ground. It also weighs an estimated 30 tons, making it the second biggest meteorite found in the region.

While Campo del Cielo certainly holds the record for having most of the larger meteorites, the largest chunk of space rock ever discovered was found in Hoba, Namibia. Thought to have fallen to Earth around 80,000 years ago, the rock is 84% iron, 16% nickel, and believed to weigh around 60 tons, although it has never actually been weighed due to its colossal size.

The original discoverer of the Hoba meteorite wasn’t made by a research team like the one that found Gancedo, but rather by a farmer plowing his fields back in 1920. The story goes that he heard a very loud scraping beneath his feet and that his plow became stuck in its surface. Experts subsequently unearthed it as best they could, and today the meteorite is on permanent display for tourists to see, and reportedly draws thousands of people every year.

In the U.S., the largest meteorite to ever have been discovered is currently displayed near its original site in Willamette, Oregon. The iron-nickel meteorite weighs 15.5 tons and was well-known by the ancient Native American tribes of the region. In 1902, settler Ellis Hughes found the meteorite and paid to have it unearthed.

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