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Krasnojarsk: a fragment of 'The Iron Nugget'

artists impression of a falling meteorite
meteorite virtual object

The Krasnojarsk pallasite from Yeniseisk, Russia is one of the most famous meteorites in the world. A mass of material of about 700 kg was discovered in 1749 on the side of Mount Bolshoi Imir, about 235 km (145 miles) south of Krasnojarsk. A local man, Yakov Medvedev, out hunting, found an outcrop of iron ore beside a huge rock. Johan Mettich, a German engineer, examined the site and found the strange metallic lump 300 m from the outcrop, lying on the ground with no sign of an impact crater.

It was eventually excavated by Pyotr S. Pallas in 1772 and transported to Krasnojarsk, and thence to St Petersburg. The vast majority of this find remains in Russia but many parts of the metorite were chipped off during its travels around international museums and societies.

Pyotr Pallas described the find as an iron mass 'having cavities filled with small olivine crystals'. The Krasnoyarsk object was finally named a meteorite when, near St Petersburg on 1 July 1902, another very similar meteorite fell and was immediately recovered. Eventually this class of meteorites was named after Pyotr Pallas.

detail of olivine inclusions in a pallasite meteorite

The inside of a pallasite meteorite (silvery parts are cut edges). In 1981 the 'Pallas Iron' had a 1.5 ton cast iron monument dedicated to it on its mountain-top fall site.

One large meteor strike in the Caribbean may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, ammonites and many other species at the end of the Cretaceous period.

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