Wednesday 13 March 2024

March 14th 1881 The Middlesbrough Meteorite crashed to Earth

At 3.35pm on March 14th 1881 a team of workmen on a railway line near Middlesbrough had a close encounter with an intruder from outer space when a meteorite crashed onto the track. That meteorite has now become known as one of the most important on Earth.

The Middlesbrough Meteorite is around 4.5 billion years old, its not that big, it only weighs around 3.5 pounds. It is is about 6 inches long, 5 inches wide and 3 inches tall, it is a pretty ordinary stone type meteorite. What makes it so special is its shape. Its conical.

When it entered the Earth’s atmosphere rather than just randomly tumbling to the ground as most meteors do only one face was pointed to the atmosphere which got burned and the end result is that it is conical in shape. In fact the Middlesbrough Meteorite is referred to as a text book example of an oriented meteorite.

The Meteorite landed at a place called Pennyman’s Siding on the old North Eastern Railway line. Some workman heard the whoosh sound of the meteor as it approached and heard a thump as it hit the ground. They cautiously pulled it out of the hole which it had made they had no idea what it was. They thought it was sufficiently important to save it and it was tested and shown to be a meteorite.

At the time of its fall Middlesbrough was in the county of Yorkshire and the North Eastern Railway company wanted to give it to the county museum, this was The Yorkshire Museum in York. Some scientists had other ideas, they wanted to send it to the National History Museum in Lindon.

The North Eastern Railway company had other ideas, as it had fallen on their land they said it belonged to them unless anyone could prove otherwise. They placed it is their lost property department for 6 months and after no one was able to claim it they gave it to the Yorkshire Museum where it still is today.


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