Greensburg meteorite missing

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May 12 2007 9:25 PM

Greensburg meteorite missing

Update (May 13): I love my commenters! The meteorite has been found; in fact, it appears it was found well before I posted this entry. I didn't find any info before I posted, but maybe my Google mojo had abandoned me. Anyway, this is good news, in a place that could really use some.

My in-laws live in Kansas, but I've never been to Greensburg (even though it's about an hour from their house). Now if I go it'll be different: it's the town that was just literally destroyed by a tornado.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies!  

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If there were any reason I'd go, it would have been to see their Pallasite meteorite, my favorite kind. They had a huge one that was found there, and in fact several have been found nearby in recent times. They have an ugly exterior, like slag, but when you cut them open they're spectacular. They have translucent greenish-yellow olivine crystals lodged in an iron matrix, and if you cut them into thin slices and hold them up to the light, they are spectacular.

I'm not nearly as sad about that as I am over everything else that happened to those poor folks there, of course. I was slack-jawed looking at images from the town. That meteorite was the town's prized possession, and it's gone too. Man, that is an incredible bummer.

I have to add-- when we'd drive through Kansas, we'd see signs for Greensburg, and they'd say that it was the home of the Pallasite meteorite and the world's largest hand-dug well. We'd have to laugh, because a well seems like a silly thing to promote. Then, a long time later, I actually saw a pamphlet about the well. Wow. It really is big. It's not the kind of thing I'd like to go visit, but then I can imagine a lot of people would see the meteorite and think it's not a big deal because it's just a rock. Different strokes. But I'm just saying -- that's a big well.

I imagine it's still there. I also imagine they'll find the meteorite, eventually. It's about a meter across, and it's almost solid iron, so it's not likely to get too damaged (though I'd hate to see anything it might have hit at 400 kph inside that tornado). I hope they do. It sounds silly, maybe, but I bet if they find it it'll cheer the town up a lot.

Tip of the Whipple shield to Thoughts from Kansas.