Whopper of a meteorite dug up in Poland

The moon meets Jupiter last night as seen from my yard in Duluth, Minn. Orion is rising at lower right and Taurus’ brightest star Aldebaran is to the upper right of the moon. Photo: Bob King

I hope you were able to see last night’s Jupiter-moon conjunction. It was one of those sky events that made you stare and wonder even if you didn’t know you were looking at Jupiter. Too bad the aurora didn’t join in the show. Maybe next time.

One of the meteorite craters, now a pond, in the Morasko Meteorite Preserve. Credit: Wikipedia

In 1914 during World War I soldiers digging trenches on what’s now the northern edge of Poznan, Poland uncovered metal fragments that were later found to be meteorites. Further study of the site turned up eight craters and numerous iron meteorites covered in clay and rust.

Magdalena Skirzewska stands in the bottom of the 7-foot-deep hole next to the newly found meteorite. Copyright: Lukasz Smula

The first one dragged out from the trenches weighed 171 lbs. More have been found over the years bringing the total up to around 660 lbs. When cut, polished and etched with an acid solution, Morasko meteorites display an attractive pattern of gleaming iron-nickel crystals. Scientists estimate that a large meteorite broke up after entering Earth’s atmosphere, pelting the Polish landscape with numerous fragments around the year 3000 B.C.

A 69 gram slice of the iron-nickel Morasko meteorite measuring about 2.5 inches across. Metal meteorites like this one are though to originate in the cores of asteroids. Copyright: Lukasz Smula

Today the craters are protected in a 136-acre park known as the Morasko Meteorite Reserve. A bus will drop you off a half mile away. The largest of the eight is 328 feet across and 36 feet deep. Last month, meteorite hunters Lukasz Smula and Magdalena Skirzewska used metal detectors to discover the largest specimen to date buried over 7 feet deep in the dirt. The two search for the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.

What a happy couple! The husband and wife team Lukasz Smula and Magdalena Skirzewska pose with their spectacular new Morasko meteorite find. Click image to see a gallery of pictures of the recovery operation. Copyright: Lukasz Smula

With the help of friends they dug down to the meteorite and built a chain hoist to raise the massive rock from its hole. At 660 lbs. it’s a real whopper and the largest meteorite ever found in Poland. It now resides in a considerably cleaner environment at Adam Mickiewicz University where it’s under study.

11.7 gram slice of the stony Novato, California meteorite. The shattered or brecciated texture tells us that the original meteorite was probably shocked and crushed by an earlier asteroid impact. Piece is about 1-inch across. Credit: Brien Cook

One of the great truths of meteorite hunting is that the best place to look for space rocks is where they’ve already been found. Invariably, more await the thorough hunter. Congratulations to Lukas and friends on their wonderful find!

Closer to home, another couple meteorites from the Oct. 17 San Francisco Bay area fireball has been found, bringing the total to at least four. Searching has been anything but easy, and now that rains have fallen, new finds will be more difficult as the rocks begin to weather. While we still are waiting for an official name, this new arrival from the asteroid belt is now classified as an L6 (low iron) stony meteorite.

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