Meteorite of the month from the KGS collection: the Burnwell meteorite
On Sept. 4, 1990, a meteorite crashed through the roof and floor of the front porch of Arthur and Frances Pegg’s home near the town of Burnwell, in Pike County, Ky. The surface of the 3.3-pound meteorite was mostly covered with a fusion crust, but small amounts of lacquer and paint were also found on the meteorite, apparently because it came to rest among paint cans under the porch. The existence of the meteorite was kept quiet for several years before it became the topic of news reports. In 1997, the Smithsonian Institution bought the meteorite, and the largest piece of it is still on display there. KGS acquired a small part of the Burnwell in 2014 as part of the William Russell meteorite collection, donated to the Survey by Russell’s wife, Mary Ann.
The Burnwell meteorite is classified as an H-4 olivine bronzite chondrite. Chondrites are the most common type of recovered meteorites. They are made up mostly of silicates, along with metal inclusions, minor amounts of other minerals, and chondrules, which are small rounded particles of the silicate minerals olivine and pyroxene up to a few millimeters in diameter. The Burnwell originated from an asteroid in the outer solar system. A detailed analysis of the meteorite was published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science in 1998. More information about the Burnwell meteorite and each specimen in the KGS collection is available in an online meteorite database.
This specimen is among 27 meteorites in the KGS collection that have fallen in Kentucky. The rarest specimen in the collection is the carbonaceous chondrite that was found near Murray, Ky., in 1950. It contains rare amino acids and gases, deuterium, and silicon carbide, which suggest it may have predated the solar system itself.
The Eagle Station meteorite, found in Carroll County, was the only known example of the pallasite subclassification that came to be known as the Eagle Station Group. But the Meteoritical Society database shows that others have now been found in Alaska, Namibia, Russia, and Morocco.
For more information about these meteorites and others in the KGS collection, consult the references below.
- Ehmann, W.D., and Anderson, W.H., 2000, Space visitors in Kentucky: Meteorites and meteorite impact sites in Kentucky: Kentucky Geological Survey, ser. 12, Special Publication 1, 45 p.
- McCoy, T.J., 1999, The story of a meteorite: Geotimes, www.geotimes.org/dec99/feature.html [accessed 12/03/2018].
Russell, S.S., McCoy, T.J., Jarosewich, E., and Ash, R.D., 1998, The Burnwell, Kentucky, low iron oxide chondrite fall: Description, classification and origin: Meteoritics and Planetary Science, v. 33, no. 4, p. 853–856, doi.org/10.1111/j.1945-5100.1998.tb01691.x.