Skip to comments.Rare meteorite found in Kansas field
Posted on 10/16/2006 5:28:17 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
GREENSBURG, Kan. - Scientists located a rare meteorite in a Kansas wheat field thanks to new ground-penetrating radar technology that someday might be used on Mars.
The dig Monday was likely the most documented excavation yet of a meteorite find, with researchers painstakingly using brushes and hand tools to preserve evidence of the impact trail and to date the event of the meteorite strike. Soil samples also were bagged and tagged and organic material preserved for dating purposes.
Even before they had the meteorite out of the ground, the scientific experts at the site were able to debunk prevailing wisdom that the spectacular Brenham meteorite fall occurred 20,000 years ago. Its location in the Pleistocene epoch soil layer puts that date closer to 10,000 years ago.
"We know it is recent," said Carolyn Sumners, director of Astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, as she surveyed progress on the dig. "Native Americans could have seen it."
The scientific expedition of the meteorite-strewn field in western Kansas was put together by the Houston Museum of Natural Science and led by meteorite hunters Steve Arnold and Philip Mani. Johnson Space Center's Lunar and Planetary Institute, the Rice Space Institute at Rice University and George Observatory in Houston also sent researchers.
Fewer than 1 percent of the meteorites discovered on earth are pallasite meteorites, known for their crystals embedded in iron, Mani said.
Sophisticated metal detectors at the site initially detected what had been thought to be the largest pallasite meteorite ever discovered. But ground-penetrating radar showed that object to be a steel cable.
But with about a dozen potential targets on the site, the team still uncovered a sizable pallasite buried 4 feet under the ground and located a quarter of a mile from where Arnold and Mani found the world's largest pallasite meteorite a year ago.
The newest find weighs 154 lbs, which is bigger than most such meteorites but on par for this particular field, Arnold said.
"What is unique is not the size, but the fact it was found in context," said Patricia Reiff, director of the Rice Space Institute.
Researchers from various scientific disciplines documented every aspect of the dig. Among them were an archaeologist, a paleontologist, a naturalist, geologists, astronomers and even an animator who re-created the meteor fall for the museum.
But few garnered as much attention as Essam Heggy, planetary scientist at the Johnson Space Center's Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. It was his ground-penetrating technology that pinpointed the site and proved for the first time that the technology could be used to find objects buried deep in the ground and to make an accurate three-dimensional image of them.
"It validates the technique so we can use something similar to that instrument when we go to Mars," Reiff said.
Such GPR systems had been used in the past to locate smaller meteorites in Antarctica where ice allows easier penetration of the sonar. But until the Kansas dig, the technology had not been successfully used for ground detection in heavy soils, like what might be encountered in Mars, to find meteorites or water there.
"When we find a piece of meteorite, each one is a new sentence we add to the book to understand the evolution of the solar system," Heggy said.
The Brenham field was discovered in 1882. Scientists have since traced pieces of the shower as far away as Indian mounds in Ohio, indicating the meteorites were traded as pieces of jewelry and ceremonial artifacts. The site was largely forgotten in recent decades until Arnold and Mani leased eight square miles of it and began looking deep below the surface.
More than 15,000 pounds of meteorites have been recovered from the Brenham fall, with about a third of them found by the two men in the past year, Mani said. About three dozen meteorites have been pulled from the field by their Brenham Meteorite Co.
This week's find will end up as part of a new exhibit on comets, meteors, and asteroids at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The museum will pay about $50,000 for it, Sumners said. It is valued at more than $100,000, she said.
Under the lease agreement, the landowner and meteorite hunters split the proceeds of any finds, Mani said.
Landowner Alan Binford watched with interest as the scientists freed the meteorite, bagging clumps of his rich Kansas farmland around it.
"I didn't figure there would be that much scientific value," he said. "I never thought about them going to this extent. It is interesting history."
Workers pull dirt away from a 154-pound meteorite as a team from the Houston Museum of Natural Science unearth the find in a field near Greensburg, Kan., Monday, Oct. 16, 2006. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas? Is that near Smallville?
Let's all give our welcome to Kal-El.
Well, hopefully Kal-El. Zod would be problematic.
Kal-El is an illegal alien... He must go back...
LOL! I knew the obligatory Superman reference was coming!
How could it not? A meteorite in small-town Kansas?
It almost sounds like a joke.
Muffled voice: "Kneel before Zod."
Did Al Gore find it?
Son, that ain't no meteorite...look right here, you can see the peanuts!
If that there sumbich starts a pulsatin' and a spreadin' out... like a big brown blob ooozzin' down the road, I'd suggest gettin the heck out of there!
Did the landowner get the rights to the meteorite, or did the government claim it?
DAMN! Beat me to it! LOL!
I suddenly don't feel like having the scotch I was about to pour.
Look what they found in a field in Kansas. How cool is that? I thought of you when I read this article.
If they can detect a meteorite and send out a team to dig it up in Kansas, I doubt you need to worry about planes hiding in fields.
It's a rock....REID MUST RESIGN!!!!!!!
Reading the article helps answer questions...
Just follow the yellow brick road and make a right at the meteorite.
I see a face!
Sounds like somebody spent a lot of money to find a piece of space rock. Now they can all sit around and make guesses as to where it came from and how long it was in space and whether or not it proves the big bang theory.
I read it, missed that line. Your sarcasm is appreciated.
I like reading that!
Were there any WMDs in there with it?
You just knew Smallville would be the very first thing posted in response to this.
This is right next to the world's largest hand dug well.
Lana Lane turned into a bigger hoe this season.
I'm curious to see under what body of law the government "claim" a rock in your cornfield. Do you mean with or without compensation?
??? Planes hiding in fields? Refresh my memory, pls ....
That's what I was wondering. It seems to me that the rock belongs to the landowner. Apparently, he split it with the people who dug it up, but they provided the equipment, so it was probably a consensual deal.
"Dude, you were eating off it!"
Au Contraire.. he could be eligible for food stamps in four hours.
Then it would have undoubtedly been of great interest to their scientists.
If it has anything to do with Kal-El, it's kryptonite. If it has anything to do with Joe Dirt or Helen Thomas, well, I wish I wasn't eating when I pulled up this thread.
Meteorites were not accepted by the science establishment as coming from space until the late 1800s, although the ancient Egyptian heiroglyph for iron is clearly the word for 'from the sky.' The Greek for iron is sideros, which also means 'from the sky,' and at first the main source for iron was meteoritic.
'They' will show up to claim it sometimes. Depends which college prof gets the idea the meteorite belongs in the college museum. The landowner can sometimes combat these academics but usually it is a farmer who neither cares about meteorites nor the convolutions of property law.
Great. Now Braniac is here... : )