Allende Meteorite Fall, February 8, 1969

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Summary

  • The Allende Meteorite fall, the most important stoney meteorite shower on record, was first seen in the early morning of February 8, 1969 as a fireball descending towards the southern Chihuahuan village of Pueblito de Allende, Mexico, approximately 340 miles south of El Paso, Texas. Exploding into pieces during its journey through the atmosphere, the meteorite fell over one of the largest strewn fields (the meteorite's dispersal area) ever recorded, extending over 200 square miles (300 km). Within five days of the fall, Smithsonian scientists Brian H. Mason and Roy S. Clarke, Jr., had arrived in Mexico and were collecting specimens with the help of local schoolchildren who agreed to look for meteorites on the condition that they would be provided with soft drinks. This motley crew was able to collect over a ton of material, with specimens ranging from as small as one gram to 242 pounds (110kg). The scientists were also aided by ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company) Mexicana, Parral, a mining company located close by.
  • The collected specimens were studied in various institutions, including with the new state-of-the-art equipment that NASA had acquired to study the lunar materials it was waiting to receive from the Apollo 11 mission. At the Smithsonian, scientists from both the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory became involved in the analysis. During this examination, it was discovered that the Allende meteorite contained calcium-aluminum inclusions which represent some of the first solid matter to form in the solar system. Consequently the meteorite, a rare Type III carbonaceous chondrite, has been invaluable to scientists studying the formation of the early solar system.
  • The Allende meteorite has been important in the development of scientific fields, with its study resulting in meteoritics becoming an integral part of earth science as well as resulting in the birth of the new science of cosmo-chemistry, the intersection of geology, planetary science, astronomy, and astrophysics.

Subject

  • Clarke, Roy S., Jr
  • Mason, Brian Harold 1917-
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • American Smelting and Refining Company

Category

Chronology of Smithsonian History

Notes

  • "Allende Meteorite." Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Web. 24 June 2013.
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9622, Clarke, Roy S., Jr. interviewee, National Museum of Natural History Centennial Oral History Interviews, Roy S. Clarke Jr. Interview 1, 17 Aug. 2010.
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9622, Clarke, Roy S., Jr. interviewee, National Museum of Natural History Centennial Oral History Interviews, Roy S. Clarke Jr. Interview 2, 7 Sept. 2010.
  • Clarke, Roy S., Jr.. The Allende, Mexico, Meteorite Shower. City of Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu

Date

February 8, 1969

Topic

  • Meteoritics
  • Allende meteorite
  • Meteorites
  • Meteorology
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Specimens
  • Meteors
  • Meteorologists

Place

  • Chihuahua (Chihuahua, Mexico)
  • Mexico

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