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.
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.
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.