A brief introduction to the Middlesbrough Meteorite

This week I have decided to do things a little differently and, rather than giving a recap on what I have been up to, I am going to give you the story behind one of the coolest items in the Yorkshire Museum collection — the Middlesbrough Meteorite. I have become involved in it this week after going through a lot of information relating to it that the Science Team keep on site; press releases, letters between curators, general enquiries from the public and so on. It is really interesting to see how many people wanted (literally) a piece of it!

Due to its small size and dark colouring it is easy to not realise at first how awesome this object is. Set near the start of the dinosaur section of the Extinct gallery, the meteorite is nestled in a display cabinet with minimal fuss. For any enthusiast a bit of space debris is interesting enough but it is the discovery, and in particular its unusual shape, that makes this one stand out.

The Middlesbrough Meteorite, currently on display at the Yorkshire Museum.

On March 14th 1881, a group of men were working along a railway line near Middlesbrough. At 1535 they are reported to have heard a ‘rushing’ sound from above them, followed by a thud on the ground nearby. When they went to inspect where the noise had come from, they found a hole “into which a man’s arm might be thrust”. They pulled what is now known to be a meteorite out of the hole and declared that it was “new milk warm” in temperature.

To have a group present at the landing of a meteorite is unusual but what makes this particularly important is its shape. Normally, a rock falling from the sky will start to tumble once it enters the atmosphere. This tumbling causes parts to break off in an even manner, resulting in a relatively smooth, rounded shape. The Middlesbrough Meteorite was a different, conical shape and it entered at just the right angle to prevent it from tumbling. The end result is the proportions that you can see in the images; most definitely not rounded. From this view it would have fallen top down and so with that it mind you can see clearly how the molten rock flew back down its surface as it plummeted towards Earth.

If you get chance, it’s definitely worth a visit!

The meteorite fell top first. You can see marks on the outside, showing how hot it became.

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