Brenham meteorite

Steve Arnold loads his rare 1,400-pound meteorite into a pickup truck. The stony-iron mass, which he found buried 7 feet down using a sophisticated metal detector, might be worth more than $1 million.

Courtesy Philip Mani.

It's not common to find prospectors trudging across the vast plains of southwestern Kansas, but Steve Arnold isn't your ordinary treasure-hunter. A professional meteorite collector from Kingston, Arkansas, Arnold made the discovery of a lifetime in late October when he discovered a rare stony-iron meteorite weighing more than 1,400 pounds (650 kilograms).

The area near Brenham Township in Kansas already had a reputation for meteorites stretching back to 1882, when the first sample from an extensive fall was found. Arnold went looking for more, crisscrossing the farmlands with a sensitive metal detector attached to an all-terrain vehicle. The massive discovery lay more than 7 feet below the surface, and it took 2½ hours of digging with a large backhoe to unearth it.

Arnold's find represents the largest known fragment of the Brenham fall, eclipsing a 1,040-pound specimen found in 1949. The meteorite is a rather rare type known as a pallasite, consisting of large gemlike crystals of the mineral olivine embedded in a mass of iron and nickel. The recent find ranks as the largest pallasite found in the United States, but more remarkable is its streamlined shape — indicating that this space rock maintained the same orientation throughout its fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere.


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