A meteorite is a fragment of stony or metallic interplanetary rock thought to have formed in the asteroid belts billions of years ago when the earth and solar system were first formed. The most common are stony meteorites, which are composed of silicate minerals (mainly olivine) and iron meteorites (siderites) composed of iron, nickel, and accessory minerals.
At least 27 small meteorites have impacted Kentucky during recorded times. Meteorites have been collected from Allen, Bath, Bullitt, Calloway, Carroll, Casey, Christian, Grant, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Livingston, Marshall, McCreary, Metcalfe, Nelson, Oldham, Pike, Simpson, Taylor, and Trimble Counties. Another unconfirmed report of a meteorite has come from Lewis County. The earliest recorded meteorite in Kentucky fell in 1839 in Livingston County. One of the most recent was the Burmwell meteorite in Pike County in 1990.
Most meteorites that impact the United States are collected and housed in the National Museum meteorite collection at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. But fragments of 10 Kentucky meteorites were collected by Dr. William D. Ehmann, Professor emeritus of the Chemistry Department, University of Kentucky, and a nationally recognized researcher on meteorites and moon rocks. Dr. Ehmann donated his collection to the Kentucky Geological Survey, where it can be viewed in an exhibit in the lobby of the Mining and Mineral Research Building, University of Kentucky in Lexington.
When small meteorites hit the earth the damage they cause is usually minimal. But large meteorites can excavate huge craters and have dramatic consequences. The impact structures left behind are called astroblemes. Although, only small meteorites have impacted Kentucky in human history, there are three astroblemes in Kentucky, which suggest that at least 3 large meteorites have collided with Kentucky in the distant past.