The Middlesbrough Meteorite

During the past year a very beautiful specimen of a meteorite fell near Middlesbrough, in Yorkshire. It struck the earth at a spot called Pennyman’s Siding on the North-Eastern Railway Company’s branch line from Middlesbrough to Guisbrought about one mile and three-quarters from the former town. Its descent was witnessed by W. Ellinor and three platelayers, who heard a whizzing or rushing noise in the air followed in a second or two by a sudden blow of a body striking the ground not far from them the spot was found to be 48 yards from where they stood.

Pennymans

The fall took place on the 14th March, 1881, at 3:35 p.m. The wind was from the north-east, and it was a clear and bright but rather cold afternoon. At more distant places, as Northallerton and four miles to the eastward, the sound resembled the boom of a gun; no luminous or cloud-forming phenomena are reported.

The character of the hole, according to Professor Alexander Herschel, who at once visited the spot, points to the fall having been vertical or nearly so. The stone was “new milk warm” when found, and weighed 3 lbs. 8 oz. ; the dark surface is entirely fused and crusted, and has scarcely suffered by the fall. The stone forms a low pyramid, slightly scolloped, 6 inches in length, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches in height. The rounded summit and sloping sides are scored and grooved deeply with a polish like black lead, in waving furrows running to the base, showing that this side came foremost during the fusing action of the atmosphere which the meteorite underwent in its flight. The rear or base is equally fused or branded by heat, but is rough, dull brown in colour, and not scored or furrowed.

The meteorite penetrated the soil to a depth of 11 inches, and the penetration line apparently slopes about 10° from the vertical from the S.S.E. ; it passed through 7 or 8 inches of coke- ballast, and thereafter brick-earth or coarse clay to the remaining depth. From experiments made by Professor Herschel on the power of penetration of a cast-iron model of the meteorite, it is calculated that the actual velocity of fall with which the stone struck the ground must have been 412 feet per second, As it would acquire this velocity by falling freely through half-a-mile, it is clear how little of the original planetary speed with which it entered the atmosphere can have remained to affect its fall.Middlesbrough_meteorite_-_20080625

The interior of the stone has a greyish- white appearance, and is evidently for the most part composed of silicates : frequent bright metallic granules are to be seen, and they appear to be entirely or almost entirely granules of nickel-iron. The rocky portion varies from grey to pure white, of which there are patches, and while the greater part appears to be homogeneous in structure, there are many enclosed chondra of large size and of a darker grey than the body of the stone.

In the well-developed markings of the exterior of the stone it bears a close resemblance, as Professor Herschel points out, to the meteorite of Karakol (Kirgis Steppe, May 9th, 1840), of which Professor Goebel gives a figure in his paper of 1866 in the ‘ Melanges physiques et chimiques de academie Imperiale de St. Petersbourg/ vii., 318-324.

The railway company, who at the time this notice was written retained possession of the stone, kindly permitted a few fragments to be removed for examination. It has since been presented to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, and is now preserved in the museum at York.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 1882

 

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland