Fell September 2, 2015

Pieces Of Vesta Pelt Eastern Turkey
Edited from a larger work by Bob King

Call it a surprise visit from Vesta. On September 2, 2015, NASA satellites detected a meteoroid entering the atmosphere with a diameter of approximately 20 inches (50 cm) that broke up at an altitude of about 25 miles (40 km) over several villages in eastern Turkey. After a bright flash and detonations, stones came raining down. Some villages even heard them plink on their rooftops.

In the weeks that followed, people noticed small black rocks on the ground but didn’t connect them to the explosion and fall of meteorites until an academic from Istanbul University explained their monetary and scientific value. Now villagers are selling some of what they’ve found to meteorite hunters and on various websites

The meteorites are being sold by both long-time meteorite hunters and villagers alike under the provisional names Bingöl and Saricicek, after the villages in which they fell. Most are very small, weighing from under a gram to 10 grams. But not all. According to Nezir Ergün, a local resident, the largest recovered so far sinks the scales at 3.2 pounds (1.47 kg).

40 families of Syrians living in nearby provinces recently joined in on the hunt, hoping to find a few pieces to sell to make enough money to build a house. They describe the meteorite fall as “a gift from God”, continuing a long association humanity has had with the cultural aspect of meteorites. One of the stones of the meteorite that fell over Novo-Urei, Russia in September 1886 was broken apart by peasants and eaten, presumably for its magical or curative powers. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.

In a related story, the Turkish government considered taxing local residents on the profits they made on selling their space rocks, but after hearing a resounding “No!” from the locals, dropped the idea. To date, over 246 Bingöl meteorites have been cataloged. The Turkish Meteorite Network lists them all along with additional information and photos.

Bingöl has been officially classified as a Howardites. Howardites account for only 5% of meteorites observed to fall but belong to a broader class of achondrite meteorites that includes eucrites and diogenites. Achrondrites are similar to terrestrial igneous rocks in that they’ve been completely melted at some point in their history. Together, the trio’s known as the HED clan and hail from the asteroid Vesta.

Specimens of the Bingöl fall have a striking glassy, black, lustrous fusion crust from melting of the meteoroid’s outer layers during its heated plunge through the atmosphere.

Broken or sliced specimens show quite the opposite — a pale, gray matrix studded with green, crystalline patches of hypersthene, a silicate of magnesium and iron, and other inclusions. Howardites represent the compacted, cemented soil of Vesta. They contain fragments from deep within the crust blasted out and mixed again and again by successive impacts. One of those blasts sent a batch of Vesta toward Earth, and on September 2nd pieces another impact brought the two together. Pieces never found will eventually become part of Earth’s soil reserves, helping to nourish new plants




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