When contemplating an adventure or planning a vacation, no one really thinks of Namibia. Let us give you an undeniable reason – the largest meteorite in the world is still hidden on a farm near Grootfontein, Namibia. This is correct! We are talking about the 50-ton Hoba meteorite.
How was Hoba discovered?
The Hoba meteorite, short for Hoba West, was discovered by Harmanus Brits in 1920. When a British farmer was plowing his land, his plow hit something metallic and stopped. When he examined further, it looked like a solid piece of metal embedded in the soil. It was covered in dirt, making it impossible for the British to estimate its size. Inform others, and finally the local authorities have been notified. Once the soil and the ground around it were excavated, the giant we now know as the Hoba meteorite was discovered.
Although it was discovered more than a century ago, it wasn’t long until the local authorities concluded that it was a meteorite. Hoba is named after the farm the British owned and operated. Almost all of the iron meteorites, with the exception of the Hoba meteorite, have been transferred to museums. Allegedly, the American Museum of Natural History wanted to buy it. However, its weight and size make excavation and transportation almost impossible.
When did the Hoba meteorite reach Earth?
When modern scientists tested the meteorite, they found it to be 200 to 400 million years old. It can be hard to imagine how long that has been going on. So, let us help you out – basically, dinosaurs were still alive and roaming the earth when this piece of “rock” was in its nascent stages of development.
Although it’s impossible to predict precisely when Hoba decided to call Earth “home,” scientists state that it may have landed around 80,000 years ago. Data from the most recent surveys show that they may have landed quite recently, most likely between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago. It is quite astonishing to think that some of our immediate ancestors might have watched the Hoba meteorite crash into Earth while they were going about their daily business.
Why doesn’t it have a crater?
It’s hard to imagine a 50-ton meteorite hitting the Earth but not having a crater. Did the crater simply disappear due to natural soil movement and erosion? Well, that is not possible. The lack of a crater makes Hoba the most unique of all the meteorites found on Earth so far. There is no evidence to suggest that the area where Hoba landed was a deep body of water, which would have absorbed the impact and prevented the formation of a crater.
Researchers believe Hoba may have weighed more than 66 tons when he landed on Earth. The loss of about 16 tons may have been due to the natural oxidation process. The heavy weight combined with its somewhat flat appearance may have caused Hopa to enter Earth’s atmosphere more slowly than other meteorites. The angle at which it went can also have an effect on the ground. The Smithsonian speculates that Hoba’s relative flatness caused it to noticeably slow its journey through the atmosphere due to high air resistance.
What is the Hoba meteorite made of?
The Hoba meteorite is currently about 2.7 meters, or nine feet, across. It currently weighs about 50 tons (although many sources state that it is a 66-ton meteorite). It is about 1 meter or 3.2 feet thick. There is enough reason for the different weights that you can find on different websites. Since Hoba contains about 84% iron and 16% nickel, it has been oxidized over the years. This contributed to a significant weight loss. The Hoba meteorite also contains traces of cobalt and a layer of iron hydroxides on top due to natural oxidation.
Over the years, sampling for surveys and research has caused weight loss. Some sources state that Hoba has lost about two tons of its size in the past century due to scientific sampling, erosion, and vandalism. Most meteorites that land on Earth are classified as stony, stony-iron, and iron-iron. Hoba falls under the category of taxites (iron meteorites), and these come from asteroid cores. These make up less than 5% of all meteorites that have reached Earth. This makes the Hoba 50-ton completely exceptional.
Could a meteorite like Hoba cause another mass extinction?
Now that you know about the largest meteorite ever discovered on Earth, the next obvious question is, “How did a meteorite kill such a dinosaur? And what happens when it hits someone else?” Let’s put your mind at ease. The latest and most advanced technology allows scientists to detect celestial bodies heading towards Earth. They can determine if any of them will pose a serious threat. We even have systems in place to eliminate these threats.
The biggest difference between Hoopa and the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs is size and speed. NatGeo reports that the impact that ended the age of the dinosaurs was caused by a six-mile-wide asteroid now called Chicxulub. While Hoba is just a 50-ton (45359.2kg) meteorite, Chicxulub is claimed to be anywhere from 1.0 x 1015kg to 4.6 x 1017kg and the size of a country! Upon impact, Chicxulub threw boulders 25 kilometers up from deep in the Earth’s crust. The crater rim was higher than the highest point in the Himalayas. Therefore, a meteorite like Hoba would be too gentle to cause a mass extinction-like event.
Why is the Hoba meteorite so special?
At the moment, Hoba is the largest meteorite ever discovered on Earth. However, meteorite scientists, geologists and astronomers believe that there may be meteorites larger than Hoba that we have yet to discover. It may have descended into the ocean depths hundreds of thousands of years ago. This makes them difficult to detect. No one can say that the Hoba meteorite is the largest on Earth. However, it is indeed the largest one discovered so far.