Massive “El Gancedo” Meteorite Unearthed In Argentina

A crane lifts the massive "Gancedo" meteorite, estimated at 30 tons, onto a flatbed earlier this month. The space boulder was discovered in a depression in the famous Campo del Cielo strewn field located 620 northwest of Buenos Aires. Credit: Ministerio de Gobierno, Justicia y Relación con la Comunidad
A crane lifts the massive “Gancedo” meteorite, estimated to weigh 30 tons, onto a flatbed earlier this month. The space boulder was discovered in a depression in the famous Campo del Cielo strewn field located 620 miles northwest of Buenos Aires and named after a nearby village. Credit: Ministerio de Gobierno, Justicia y Relación con la Comunidad

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.

A laborer attaches a chain around "El Gancedo" before the meteorite is hoisted out of the ground. Credit:
A laborer attaches a chain around “El Gancedo” before the meteorite is hoisted out of the ground. Credit: Ministerio de Gobierno, Justicia y Relación con la Comunidad

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!

The Astronomy Association of Chaco team gets their photo taken in front of their giant space rock. Credit: Ministerio de Gobierno, Justicia y Relación con la Comunidad
The Astronomy Association of Chaco team gets their photo taken in front of their giant space rock.
Credit: Ministerio de Gobierno, Justicia y Relación con la Comunidad

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.

Campo del Cielo meteorites are heavy, metallic and dimpled with regmaglypts or "thumbprints" where softer materials melted away during the meteorite's fall through the air. Credit: Bob King
Campo del Cielo meteorites are heavy, metallic and dimpled with regmaglypts or “thumbprints”, areas where softer materials melted away during the meteorite’s fall through the air. To hold one is to travel back 4.5 billion years to the beginning of the solar system when the material first formed. Credit: Bob King

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.

2 Responses

  1. BCstargazer

    As elongated crater(s) suggests a very shallow entry into our atmosphere, could Campo Del Cielo be part of the Aten family like the Chelyabinsk, Taglish Lake or the Sutter’s Mill meteorites despite their high metal composition?

    1. astrobob

      Hi BC,
      No, I don’t think so. The elongated strewnfield is a classic pattern formed when fragments of different sizes drop across the ground during the meteoroid’s atmospheric entry. The small pieces drop first, then the medium ones and finally the biggest. Since it’s traveling in a particular direction during the breakup, the landing zone can be quite elongated. The few Google Map pix I’ve seen of the region show a couple circular craters.

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