The Remarkable Tale of the Benld Meteorite

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The Benld meteorite is a fascinating piece of space history that made its mark quite literally on September 29, 1938, in Benld, Illinois. This meteorite is known as an ordinary (H6) chondrite, a common classification for stony meteorites that possess round mineral inclusions known as chondrules. These chondrules are tiny molten drops of silicate minerals from the early solar system, which are visible in the material that later formed into space rocks.

The event that brought the Benld meteorite to fame occurred when it not only penetrated the roof of a garage but also made its way through the seat and floor of a car parked inside, before bouncing off the car’s muffler and landing back on the seat. This incident is especially notable because it was one of the first recorded instances of a meteorite hitting a man-made object, specifically a car, and the meteorite’s fall did not accompany the expected fireball or smoke, suggesting it was cool upon impact. The lack of scorch marks on the car seat supports this hypothesis.

The Benld meteorite’s trajectory was determined in a unique manner by Ben Hur Wilson of the Joliet Astronomical Society and Frank M. Preucil. They used the alignment of the holes punched through the garage and car, along with strings and a plumb bob, to calculate the meteorite’s path. This investigation marked the first time the trajectory of a meteorite’s final path had been measured, determining that it came from 64º 46′ east of true north, at an angle of 77º 31′ from the horizontal.

Today, the Benld meteorite is displayed at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where it continues to intrigue and educate visitors about the tangible connections between the cosmos and human society. This meteorite serves as a reminder of our place in a much larger universe that occasionally makes a dramatic entrance into our daily lives.

For more details, you can explore the articles from​ and the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies​​.

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