Campo del Cielo Meteorite

Fragment of the Campo del Cielo meteorite
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Pictured above, is my very own meteorite. Awesome, isn’t it!

But it’s not really in outer space. It’s in my office, on my desk.

Okay, I had a bit of fun with Photoshop and a digital camera with a decent macro lens setting. (Thanks to Google Earth for the Star Field image in the background.)

Here’s an un-altered picture of the meteorite fragment that shows its real size a bit more accurately.

Campo del Cielo meteorite fragment sitting on a penny+ enlarge

I bought my meteorite for $10 in a cool little shop in NYC called Evolution. Evolution is like a mini museum, where everything is for sale: animal skulls and skeletons, fossils, insects, geodes, and of course… meteorites.

Campo del Cielo meteorite

The following information about the Campo del Cielo Meteorite comes from the Montreal Planetarium website.

Official Name: Campo del Cielo is the name of the arid plain where this meteorite was found. But the plain gets its name from the meteorite! Dozens of place names were given to the fragments of this meteorite, which were found over a very large area.

Location: Northwest of the village of Chorotis, straddling the border between the Argentine states of Chaco and Santiago del Estero. The region is situated 800 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires.

Fall or Find: Campo del Cielo is a find. Carbon samples found under the ejecta from the craters were dated using carbon 14. The date obtained was 5,800 years ago. So the craters cannot be older than that. The fragments are altered and rusted, but some areas present a fresh crust, which points to a fall in the recent past. Most of the dates proposed vary between 4,000 and 5,800 years ago.

Date: Spanish explorers discovered the meteorite in 1576. It was already known to the indigenous people.

Mass Recovered: At least 100 metric tons of the Campo del Cielo meteorite have been recovered over the last five centuries. If we consider the total mass of the fragments, it is the largest meteorite in the world. The largest individual fragment of Campo del Cielo weighs 37 metric tons.

Number of Fragments: Thousands of fragments were collected. Three fragments alone-weighing 15, 18, and 37 metric tons-account for two thirds of the meteorite’s mass.

Strewn field: The craters are oriented from northeast to southeast, forming an impressive strewn field of 18.5 by 3 kilometres.

Crater: Some twenty craters have been identified to date. The largest is 100 metres in diametre and the smallest, 20 metres. The largest craters contain no fragments-they were ejected on impact. Some impact structures are elliptical in shape. This form is due to the angle of fall of the meteoroid fragments. They struck the ground at an angle of 9 degrees to the horizon.

Circumstances: Spanish explorers discovered the meteorite with the help of native people who told them about a mass of iron that fell from the sky. The Spaniards collected a few fragments of the meteorite during expeditions in the area between 1576 and 1783. A 15-metric-ton mass was discovered in 1813 by a man named Don R. de Celis. Several masses weighing from several hundreds of kilograms to a few tons were found in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Each fragment was given a name : Mesón de Fierro, Runa Pocito, Toba, Hacha, Mocovi, Tonocote, Abipon, and Mataco. One of the most recent discoveries was in 1970. An 18-metric-ton fragment was revealed during excavation of a crater by a scientific team. It lay 5 metres below the bottom of the crater.

History: In 1990, a mineral collector promised Robert Haag that he could arrange the purchase of a Campo del Cielo meteorite weighing several tons. The mineral collector supposedly had an agreement with the owner of the land where it lay. Haag paid the negotiator and travelled to Argentina accompanied by an entire team to transport the enormous mass. Once the meteorite had been loaded on a truck, the police arrested Haag. In this province of Argentina, meteorites belong to the government and not to the landowner. Haag had to pay a fine for attempting to steal a national treasure. He had been duped! This meteorite fragment is still in its home province.

Type: Iron meteorite

Class: Coarse octahedrite: 3-millimetre bandwidths.

Group: IAB

Composition: Campo del Cielo contains 6.68% nickel, 0.43% cobalt, 0.25% phosphorus, 87 parts per million gallium, 40 ppm germanium, and 3.6 ppm iridium. All the rest is iron.

This iron meteorite is distinguished by the presence of silicate inclusions in its iron matrix. The few octahedrites that present this feature were probably formed by a process other than melting and differentiation.

Scientific contribution: Researchers who have studied the Campo del Cielo strewn field have noticed a reddening of the clay near the points of impact. According to these scientists, the same phenomenon might explain the colours seen on the surface of Mars.

6 Responses to “Campo del Cielo Meteorite”

  1. Poor fruit fly. He must be so lonely now.

  2. Yes, he’s been deposed.

    (Carl tried adding a link here to an image which explains his comment, but it didn’t seem to take.)

    I’ll explain:

    After being inspired by one of Carl’s bug images, I took a picture of an injured Fruit Fly; and for context to show its truly small size, I posed it on the face of a penny.

    Fruit Fly on a penny
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    As boys (with cameras) will be boys (with cameras), here is Carl’s macro bug picture of an emerging Cicada:

    Cicada emerging from its shell
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  3. Hi. I don’t think that Campo Del Cielo meteorite fragment is genuine. It shouldn’t have tiny holes on it. This makes me wonder if it is just some iron from earth mixed with a bit of earth rock. I have never seen a meteorite fragment with tiny holes in it.

  4. Alex, thank you for your observation. I’ll have to look into that.

    I bought another little (slightly bigger) meteorite fragment (supposedly) from the Sikhote-Alin meteor.

    I’ll post an image of that one when I get a chance.

  5. Hi again Alex.

    I’m certainly not an expert on any level here, but I just took a look around the Internet, and found this website that sells pieces of the Campo meteorite:

    I have no idea about the authenticity of their fragments, but all of the Campo fragments on their site have those tiny bubbles on the surface.

    Ultimately, for me, the fragment that I have is real enough — as it represents (literally, or figuratively) that fact that Earth is only one tiny part of the Universe.

  6. I am the Photo Editor at Benchmark Education Company. We are interested in using you image of the fruit fly on the penny in a publication. Please let me know if this is possible and we will talk details.