It Came From Outer Space


HAVE you ever seen a streak of light in a starry sky? Perhaps you called it a shooting star. Actually, such streaks of light are more accurately known as meteors.

Most of the matter that enters our atmosphere from space burns up completely before it reaches earth. Sometimes, however, chunks of stony or metallic matter survive the intense heat and reach the earth’s surface. These are called meteorites. Most are small in size, but some weigh many tons. One meteorite in Namibia, Africa, is estimated to weigh about 60 tons.

Let us enjoy a visit to the Mbozi meteorite in Tanzania, which is the eighth largest found on earth. It is located at Marengi hill in the Mbozi district of southern Tanzania, near its borders with Malawi and Zambia. This ten-foot-long [3 m] and three-foot-wide [1 m] object weighs some 16 tons and consists of 90 percent iron, about 9 percent nickel, and small portions of cobalt, copper, sulfur, and phosphorus.

Nobody knows when this meteorite fell, but it must have been long ago because there are no local legends regarding it. A land surveyor from Johannesburg, W. H. Nott, reported finding it in October 1930. Since then, a trench has been dug around the object, making it appear as if the meteorite had been lifted up and placed on a stone altar. Thus, the meteorite has remained at its original landing place.

Some have tried to cut or saw the meteorite’s surface to secure a souvenir​—a very difficult task. In December 1930, when Dr. D. R. Grantham of the Geological Society used a hacksaw to cut out a specimen of about five inches [10 cm], it took ten hours! This specimen can now be seen in the meteorite collection at the British Museum in London.

The site where the Mbozi meteorite lies has been arranged to accommodate visitors. There is a little reception house with some benches and a table. The warden, who lives in a small mud house about 150 feet [50 m] from the meteorite, kindly asks us to sign the visitor’s book. We notice that thousands of visitors from all over the world have found their way here. We leaf through a small booklet that describes the meteorite, and then we take photographs.

Some children climb the meteorite and imagine that they are riding a spaceship. As we picnic nearby, enjoying the peaceful surroundings, we marvel at the sight of this extraordinary object that traveled all the way from outer space to Mbozi.

[Picture on page 15]

Saw-cuts on the meteorite