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The Planet Earth:
Prairie Meteorite Search Project

The Kyle, Saskatchewan, meteorite in a University of Calgary photo
The Kyle, Saskatchewan, Meteorite
University of Calgary photo
An odd rock that a Saskatchewan farmer found in his field is a meteorite with scientific value to Prairie Meteorite Search scientists at the University of Calgary.

Melvin Christensen of Kyle, Saskatchewan, found the black 15-lb. rock while cultivating his land around 1980. It piqued the interest of Andrew Bird, a third-year geology student at the University of Calgary, who was examining rocks that local residents thought could be meteorites during a Prairie Meteorite Search meeting at a museum in Kyle.

The Prairie Meteorite Search locates meteorites by encouraging prairie farmers to have rocks identified that they suspect to be meteorites. The project consists of local publicity campaigns and visits to towns with meteorite specimens to show local residents. The project relies on people actually having seen meteorites and the possibility of immediate identification to make discoveries.

Christensen recalled thinking the object didn't look like a rock and that it should not be where he found it. It had a black crust that looked like it had been melted. The farmer put the strange rock in a gazebo at his farmstead where it rested for two decades.

Wilfred Kunz holding Kyle meteorite in a University of Calgary photo
Andrew Bird and Kyle meteorite
Univ of Calgary photo
Voila! When he saw it in 2000, Bird was struck by the fusion crust on the rock and its dished surface, which is typical of meteorites. He also noticed that the meteorite had a hole through it the size of a quarter. He said it was the first stone he had seen with a hole.

University of Calgary planetary scientist Alan Hildebrand, one of the leaders of the Prairie Meteorite Search Project, was puzzled by the unusual surface on the dense magnetic stone. Hildebrand is a professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Tests in his university lab revealed the meteorite's composition 25 percent nickel-bearing metal. He took that as a definite indication that the rock was from outer space.

John Wacker of the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, in the state of Washington, confirmed the rock was of extraterrestrial origin. He detected signs of the meteorite's exposure to cosmic rays during its journey across space to Saskatchewan. The meteorite, in the shape of a flattened pyramid, is covered with hollows and the black fusion crust caused by surface melting as friction slowed it in Earth's upper atmosphere.

Cutting into the meteorite, the scientists found an unusual texture of coarse fragments mixed with a fine grained melted matrix. That probably was a mixture of melt and broken fragments produced by a large impact on the meteorite's parent asteroid.

Recovery Race. The find was the 13th meteorite located in the province of Saskatchewan. That put it just behind Alberta, which had been Canada's leading province with 14 meteorite recoveries.

Tom Wood holding the Elm Creek meteorite in a University of Calgary photo
Tom Wood and Elm Creek meteorite
University of Calgary photo
Bird reported that farmers were interested in the meteorite search. With their help, Bird expected to identify even more rocks. About a dozen unconfirmed meteorites were thought to be in the hands of farming families across the Canadian prairies.

Big Manitoba Meteorite. A retired Canadian farmer discovered the second largest stony meteorite ever found in Canada in 1997 while operating a road grader. The Elm Creek meteorite was the largest ever found in Manitoba.

It was the fifth meteorite to be recovered in Manitoba, which tied that province with Quebec for number of meteorite recoveries. The Elm Creek meteorite was the 61st Canadian discovery.

Tom Wood found the 18-lb. rock 40 miles southwest of Manitoba's capital, Winnipeg. Canadian researchers say it may have crashed into the Earth 10,000 years ago.

Wood was grading a dirt road southeast of Elm Creek. As usual, the person finding the stone thought it seemed heavier than it should have for its size. However, Wood stored it in his garage until 2001 when he took it to a Prairie Meteorite Search Project rock identification clinic at a rural store.

Dan Lockwood holding the Elm Creek meteorite in a University of Calgary photo
Dan Lockwood and Elm Creek meteorite
Univ of Calgary photo
The stone is a broken piece with scrape marks on it from the road grader. Most of the fusion crust was worn off the weathered meteorite, revealing interior cracks from the shattering of its parent asteroid.

Dan Lockwood, the University of Calgary student who was the Prairie Meteorite Searcher for 2001, examined the rock at a co-op store in Carman, Manitoba. Researchers suggested the other half of the meteorite might weigh as much as 11,000 lbs., and could still be embedded in the dirt road, but Wood doesn't remember where he found the first piece.

The well-weathered rock probably fell to Earth thousands of years ago. Most of its fusion crust is weathered off revealing an interior with cracks from the shattering of its parent asteroid.

Delaine Lake Meteorite. Wilfred Kunz of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, found a six-lb. meteorite in 2000 while picking stones from cultivated, seeded land near Delaine Lake.

The closest town was Annaheim, Saskatchewan, which also was near the site where an iron meteorite fell in 1914. The two meteorites were found only nine miles apart.

Kunz noticed that the rock was rusty and heavy, with pockmarks or pockets on its surface. He carried it away and placed it on a boulder in a rock pile at his son's farmstead.

Wilfred Kunz holding the meteorite in a University of Calgary photo
Wilfred Kunz and meteorite
Univ of Calgary photo
Andrew Bird, the geology student from the University of Calgary, examined the stone at a Prairie Meteorite Search clinic at the local Watson museum. He thought it was a meteorite. The rock also turned out to be weakly magnetic, which is typical of stony meteorites.

Alan Hildebrand at the University of Calgary confirmed the weathered stone was a meteorite by opening a small cut in a corner of the stone. There he could see that it was a chondritic meteorite -- a stony meteorite. This one contained numerous metal grains making it an H chondrite. The rusty weathering told Hildebrand the meteorite had fallen on the prairies thousands of years before.

It was the 14th new meteorite to be discovered in Saskatchewan, placing that province in a tie with Alberta as Canada's leading provinces for meteorite recoveries.

The surface of the meteorite revealed a history of variable meltings, suggesting a large rock had broken up in the atmosphere. The meteorite would be one of many pieces of the original rock.

Andrew Bird holding Kunz meteorite in a University of Calgary photo
Andrew Bird and Kunz meteorite
Univ of Calgary photo
Canadian Space Agency. The Prairie Meteorite Search, which found two new meteorites during each of the summers of 2000 and 2001, is a project of the Meteorites and Impacts Advisory Committee to the Canadian Space Agency. The volunteer committee is charged with investigating fireballs and recovering meteorites. The Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the University of Calgary also are interested the project led by Hildebrand, Peter Brown, University of Western Ontario, and Martin Beech, University of Regina.
Source: University of Calgary

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