Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Intergalactic Wanderer

Although long known to Willamette Valley, Oregon Indian tribes and already incorporated into their religious ceremonies, when Ellis Hughes discovered a gigantic meteorite in 1902 on someone else's land, his first impulse was to steal it. He spent 90 days surreptitiously moving the Willamette Meteorite three-fourths of a mile onto his own property in an illegal attempt to claim it as his own. A lawsuit put things right, and the true owner donated it in 1905, after display at the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition, to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where it remains today.

The Willamette Meteorite is the largest meteor to strike the United States and the sixth largest in the world. Made of 91% iron and 8% nickel, scientists explain its deeply corroded surface as a result of entering Earth's atmosphere and the creation of sulphuric acid when rainwater mixed with a trace mineral in its composition. It weighs 15.5 tons and is approximately 10 feet tall, by 6.5 feet wide and 4.25 feet thick. An impact crater was never found.

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