Campo del Cielo Meteorite Exhibits

In 2012, the Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences acquired 14 large Campo del Cielo meteorites from a private collection. These specimens range in weight from 100 - 350 pounds! Since this acquisition, the foundation has been selecting public venues for temporary and permanent displays. Each display is intended to be hands-on. A list of current and upcoming displays can be found below.

Campo del Cielo Meteorite
Spanish for “Field of the Sky”

This meteorite fell to Earth about 4,500 years ago in northern Argentina. It was part of a much larger body that broke into pieces before impact. The resultant strewn field spans two miles wide by twelve miles long and is comprised of at least 26 craters, the largest being 320 feet wide. More than 100 tons of meteorites bearing the same name have been recovered from this field. The original meteoroid body is estimated to have been 12 feet wide, weighing 800 tons!

Rocks From Outer Space!

Meteoroids are pieces of rock or metal that enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds up to 162,000 miles per hour. Most are no larger than a pea. Meteors, or shooting stars, are streaks of light in the sky caused by meteoroids vaporizing in the atmosphere due to friction. However, some larger meteoroids don’t completely vaporize and the material that lands on Earth is called a meteorite.

Campo del Cielo is an iron meteorite that is 92.6% iron, 6.7% nickel and 0.43% cobalt with traces of phosphorus, gallium, germanium and iridium. The molten-like fusion crust that covers it formed as the meteorite heated up during its plunge through the Earth’s atmosphere.

Scientific Impact

The Campo del Cielo meteorite is 4.53 billion years old, dating back to the formation of the solar system. At that time, the sun was encircled by rings of material that were becoming planets, moons, asteroids and comets. The iron, nickel and other atoms in this meteorite fused with other materials to form a larger body in the Asteroid Belt. At some point (we don’t know when) a violent collision broke the asteroid into pieces. By chance, this piece of its core landed on Earth, giving us access to a bit of material from the beginnings of our solar system. Because the Earth formed in the same way and at the same time, this meteorite can tell us a lot about our own planet. By examining radioactive elements in the meteorite, we can tell how old it is. We can also hypothesize that the Earth’s core is made up of iron and nickel, too.

Cultural Impact

For thousands of years, humans regarded the night sky with awe and wonder. The skies were the realm of gods, and the movements of the stars and planets were thought to hold divine messages for those who could decipher them. Imagine the importance early cultures might have given to a “shooting star” blazing across the sky and a piece of metal falling from the heavens to Earth. Meteorites, gifts from the gods, have been venerated throughout time and across cultures. Meteoritic metal has been made into jewelry, adornments, religious and ceremonial objects and are enshrined in churches, temples, monasteries and burial chambers around the world.

 




 

Current Exhibits

Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium, Fort Myers, Florida
Through Summer, 2019

South Florida Museum/Bishop Planetarium, Bradenton, Florida
A gift from James, Lori & Kristen Toomey

Future Exhibits
As of August 12, 2016

Florida State College (Kent Campus Library), Jacksonville, Florida

Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida
Previously displayed at the Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida

Museum of Science & History, Jacksonville, Florida

Museum of Science & Industry, Tampa, Florida

Museums of Western Colorado (Dinosaur Journey), Fruita, Colorado

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Matt Woodside (Museum of South Florida) for technical and intepretative information incorporated into the exhibits.

Additional intepretative contributions were provided by Andy Howell, Karen Walker, Janna Underhill and Mike Toomey.

Outstanding craftsmanship for some displays (South Florida Museum; Calusa Nature Center) was produced by D & J Custom Cabinetry.

For patience and professionalism, thanks to Creative Workshop in Gainesville, Florida.

For consulting, thank you to Mike Reynolds of Florida State College. If you would like to learn more about meteors and meteorites, check out Dr. Reynold's book Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors & Meteorites.

Some exhibit costs have been defrayed by the Asterion Foundation™.

 

 




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