ASTRONOMERS in Argentina have unearthed what some believe could be the second largest meteorite ever found on Earth.
The meteorite was discovered on September 10 in the town of Gancedo, 1085km north of Buenos Aires.
At this point the large rock that was excavated a few days ago from Campo del Cielo — a well known meteorite crash site in Argentina — is still just that: a very large rock.
But further investigation by scientists will determine if it actually is, as some reports have already claimed, the second largest intact meteor discovered on Earth.
Firstly the rock needs to be confirmed as a meteorite via comprehensive testing of its material. Given it was discovered in a place renowned for being struck with iron meteorites, it seems likely the object will prove to have celestial origins.
“It was in Campo del Cielo, where a shower of metallic meteorites fell around 4000 years ago,” the team was quoted saying in local media.
The other factor that will determine its place in the history books is its weight. Believed to weigh about 30 tonnes, it will need to be properly weighed to determine its precise size.
“While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tonnes,” Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco told the daily newspaper Clarin. “The size and weight surprised us,” he added.
The world’s largest discovered meteor — called Hoba — weighs more than 60 tonnes and was found in Namibia nearly a century ago by a farmer ploughing a field. While parts of the space rock have been chipped away for the purpose of scientific inquiry, due to its immense weight Hoba remains in Namibia, where it landed no earlier than 80,000 years ago.
Argentina is also home to another giant meteorite that rivals the country’s latest discovery.
The Astronomy Association of Chaco says the meteorite unearthed over the weekend is the second largest in the world but previous reports put a meteorite dubbed El Chaco located in the same area of Argentina in 1969 at 37 tonnes.
Either way, Argentina can now likely lay claim to having two of the three largest meteorites ever discovered on Earth.