The largest meteorite on the planet landed in Namibia some 80,000 years ago and is at least 200 million years old and contains elements not found on Earth.
Farmer Jacobus Hermanus Brits was tilling one of his fields behind his ox in 1920 on his farm near Grootfontein in northern Namibia when his plough got stuck on what turned out to be the Hoba Meteorite. When Brits dug around to discover what the plough had become stuck on he discovered the largest known meteorite on Earth. The Hoba Meteorite was excavated but not moved from the spot as it weighs an estimated 60 tons.
Not only is the Hoba Meteorite the largest known meteorite on Earth it is also the largest naturally-occurring piece of iron on the Earth’s surface. Its composition is 82.4% Iron, 16.4% Nickel, .76% Cobalt, .04% Phosphorus and with trace amounts of Copper, Zinc, Carbon, Sulphur, Chromium, Gallium, Germanium and Iridium. It is scientifically classified as nickel-rich ataxite. It also contains traces of minerals that really only exist on earth in meteorites like Triolite.
The Hoba Meteorite is roughly 9 feet 8 inches long, 9 feet 4 inches wide with a depth ranging from 2 feet 5 inches to 3 feet 11 inches.
Image via Wikipedia (Laurie Ventor sitting on the meteor in 1967)
The great mystery surrounding the Hoba Meteorite is that it is not in a crater. How could such a large mass end up on the Earth’s surface without being in a crater? Speculation is that the meteorite entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a very low trajectory and then skipped over the ground like a flat stone skipping over water.
(NASA photo of Hoba Meteorite)
The meteorite is estimated to be between 200 million and 400 million years old and is thought to have landed on Earth some 80,000 years ago. It certainly would have been quite visible and quite a show as it rocketed through the atmosphere to any living creature that may have been around in the area at that time.
Image by Sara&Joachim via Flickr
The Hoba Meteorite was declared a National Monument in 1955 by the then South West Africa government. Despite the designation the meteorite suffered from vandalism over the years until 1985 when the Rossing Uranium company provided funds to the Namibian Government to help prevent vandalism.
In 1987 the farm’s owner donated the meteorite site to the government and a tourist site was opened the same year. Today the largest known meteorite on Earth, The Hoba Meteorite, is visited by thousands of tourists every year.