Amazing what can fall out of the sky! Somewhere between 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, indigenous peoples in northern Argentina witnessed what had to be one of the most frightening apparitions of their lives. A host of massive iron meteorites plummeted to Earth and dug out craters across an area measuring 2 x 11.5 miles long (3×18.5 km). Some 5,000 years later on September 10 this month, members of the local Astronomy Association of Chaco discovered a 30-ton meteorite there. After cleaning and careful weighing, it will likely become the second largest meteorite fragment ever recovered from the region, just behind the 37-ton “El Chaco” unearthed in 1980.
The catastrophe happened 620 miles (1,000 km) northwest of present day Buenos Aires, Argentina. Native peoples at the time the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s called the crater-covered region Piguem Nonralta, which translated into Spanish means Campo del Cielo (Field of Heaven). Although the impact occurred over 4,000 years ago, the locals preserved its memory in story and name.
Watch as El Gancedo is extracted from its resting place about 25 feet underground. Click HERE to see the video full-screen.
The original meteorite body is estimated to have been about 13 feet (4 meters) across before explosively breaking into thousands of pieces when it was slowed by the atmosphere. The bigger ones gouged out at least 26 craters in a narrow elliptical “strewn field” described earlier, but thousands of additional smaller fragments littered the landscape in a region 37 miles (60 km) long. The total mass exceeds 60 tons!
Campo del Cielo meteorites have been for sale for years on numerous meteorite websites and eBay. “Campos”, as they’re called, are iron-nickel meteorites that contain about 90% iron, 7% nickel along with a small amount of other elements and minerals including carbon in the form of graphite. These classic iron meteorites, heavy in the hand, are very similar in composition to the one that blasted out Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona.
While El Chaco and its new sibling El Gancedo are enormous, the largest on record remains the Hoba meteorite in Namibia, weighing in at more than 66 tons. Like the Arizona and Argentine space rocks, it’s also an iron meteorite though of a different variety. The El Chaco mass is displayed in the Pigüen O´xana Park and Reservation in the Campo del Cielo locality. Where this one will end up is still being determined. But after nearly 5,000 years of resting underground, how nice to see it in the light of day.