A rock from the sky

Dinosaur Journey displays huge meteorite from birth of universe

Jenna Bullock and her 2-year-old niece, Ellie Monroe, both from Denver, marvel at an ancient meteorite new to the display at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita.

Part of the remains of a meteorite that was formed with the solar system and then crashed to Earth some 4,500 years ago is now on display at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita.

The Campo del Cielo meteorite crashed into an area 620 miles northwest of what is now Buenos Aires, Argentina. Spanish explorers took note of it in 1576 and eventually parts of it came to be owned by the Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences, which provided the 119-pound chunk of iron to the Museums of Western Colorado.

Dinosaur Journey’s chunk now sits with the museum’s display of much smaller meteorites, in the area devoted to the Cretaceous dinosaurs whose era came to an end, goes one theory, with the destructive blast of an asteroid collision with earth 65 million years ago.

“So, it really fits with our museum,” Julia McHugh, curator of paleontology, said of the meteorite.

Not only does the meteorite give the museum a new way to encourage visitors to think about paleontology, it also gives the museum a new way to reach younger visitors.

Most museum exhibits are hands-off kinds of artifacts, but not the meteorite. Visitors can feel its rough exterior and contemplate the heat that formed it, or test its heft.

The meteorite is 92.6 percent iron, 6.7 percent nickel and 0.43 percent cobalt with traces of phosphorus, gallium, germanium and iridium.

“It’s a way for kids to experience with their hands,” McHugh said. “There are different ways to learn.”

The meteorite is the first one to be donated outside of Florida and the circumstances of the donation to the museum are idiosyncratic, McHugh said.

Jim Toomey visited Dinosaur Journey while in town for car repairs, McHugh said, and after meeting with museum officials told them, “You guys are perfect” for an exhibit. “I want to be sure you get a meteorite.”

About 100 tons of the Campo del Cielo meteorite have been found, suggesting that the original rock that crashed into the earth was probably about 800 tons.


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