We often think of space as something that happens Way Out There, but our planet is in and of the cosmos—and vice versa. The Moon, for one, was once a part of the rock we call home, and chunks of interstellar metal stud the globe. Now scientists in Argentina may have found one of the biggest chunks yet: a 34-ton meteorite fragment nicknamed "Gancedo."
About 4000 to 5000 years ago, a meteor shower peppered the soil in the region that would become South America. Most of the action happened over a region northwest of Buenos Aires called Campo del Cielo ("Field of Sky"). The field was left pockmarked with craters, which have yielded more than 100 tons of space debris (some of which has a tendency to walk away). The largest lump ever found in the field is a whopper named El Chaco, which was said to weigh in at more than 40 tons when it was first discovered in 1980. Newer estimates have slimmed El Chaco down substantially, putting it at just under 35 tons.
Its challenger, the 34-ton Gancedo, was discovered on the border of the Chaco province. Scientists knew they’d found something good, but had no idea just how big Gancedo would be until it had been completely dug out.
Image Credit: Ministerio de Gobierno, Justicia y Relación con la Comunidad via Facebook
Mario Vesconi is president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco. “While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 [metric] tons,” he told Argentinian newspaper Clarín. “The size and weight surprised us.”
Immense as both Argentinean fragments may be, they’re still vying for a silver medal. The title of Largest Meteorite rests comfortably with a 66-ton Namibian giant called Hoba, discovered in 1920.
Gancedo’s journey into posterity is just beginning. "We will weigh it again,” Vesconi told Télam. "Apart from wanting the added confidence of a double-check of the initial readings we took, the fact that its weight is such a surprise to us makes us want to recalibrate."
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