It may not be destined to become a sword or skull, but a giant meteorite unearthed in Argentina this week is wowing experts. The massive chunk of interstellar metal was estimated at 31 metric tons which—if confirmed—would make it the third largest meteorite discovered on our planet.
Dubbed “Gancedo” after a nearby town, the impressive space rock was found in a region colloquially known as Campo del Cielo (“The Sky Field”), which sits 620 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. This vast swath of land is littered with craters, all of which are thought to have formed during a meteor shower some 4,000-5,000 years ago.
“While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons,” Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco (AAC) said in an official statement. “The size and weight surprised us.”
Subterranean pockets of water and unsteady top-soil made excavating the meteorite particularly challenging for the AAC team. Nearly 100 tons of interstellar metal have been pulled from Campo del Cielo to date, and collectively, these fragments form what’s thought to be one of the largest meteorites to ever fall burning towards Sector 2814
Back in the ’80s, scientists pulled what was thought to be a 37.4-ton fragment known as “Él Chaco” from a nearby crater. But some estimates now peg the find at just 31.7 tons. More work is needed to determine exactly where Gancedo sits in the lineup of meteorite heavyweights, and it is possible the new discovery could bump Él Chaco down to third place. The top spot remains categorically untouchable though, belonging to a 66-ton monster found in Nambia.
So, the big question: what is all this iron worth? It’s hard to say without an official analysis, but judging by some market estimates, we could be talking in the realm of $12.5 million (four-billion-year-old celestial objects don’t come cheap). For this reason, Vesconi and his team will remain in the area to protect any other lurking specimens against looters. “We want to move forward because there are many more still to take,” he told La Nacion. Among the prized finds may be Meson de Fierro, “The Table of Iron.” (Seriously, who is naming these things? They deserve a hug from nerd kind.)
Meson de Fierro was first described in 1576, but over the centuries, its existence has yet to be proven. “This is a legend of Spanish colonization – a huge fragment of a very noble alloy of which, according to chronicles of the time, weapons, arrowheads were made … The truth is that no one knows what happened to it.”
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