Arts & Culture


Cabin Creek Iron Meteorite

Natural History Museum Vienna
Natural History Museum Vienna

Medium octahedrite, IIIAB iron meteorite. Arkansas, USA. Fell 1886.

Cabin Creek is regarded as one of the most beautiful meteorites in the world, and is shown in many books on meteorites as the ideal example of an oriented meteorite.

Most meteorites tumble along the length of their flight after entering the Earth’s atmosphere, and are covered by an evenly melted crust when striking the Earth. It is very rare for meteorites to maintain a specific orientation throughout the flight. This results in the formation of clear front and rear sides that show significantly different surface structures.
Before arriving at the Earth’s surface on 27 March 1886, Cabin Creek was aimed like a spearhead, and its surface was melted at different rates by atmospheric erosion during its high altitude flight. The difference between the conical front side and the flat rear with a significantly smoother melted crust is particularly pronounced. As a result, Cabin Creek is regarded as the most beautiful example of an oriented meteorite.
Iron meteorites are significantly rarer than stony meteorites and account for less than ten per cent of all meteorite finds. They consist of an alloy of metallic iron and nickel, with a minor content of cobalt and platinum group metals. Such a composition does not occur as an ore in the Earth’s crust.
Cabin Creek has another special feature as well: As it was recovered directly after its fall on Arkansas, and was accordingly not exposed to terrestrial weathering, the melted crust of the 47-kilogram mass of iron is still “fresh”. Cabin Creek was taken to the NHM in Vienna in 1890 by factory-owner Albert Mayer von Gunthof, as part of “by far the most generous donation which the Mineralogical Department has received since its establishment”, as the NHM annals noted.

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  • Title: Cabin Creek Iron Meteorite
  • Rights: (c) NHM (Lois Lammerhuber)

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