Tomanowos, the mysterious meteorite

There is a meteorite from which a travel and adventure novel could be written. His journey on our planet is historical. As if traveling millions of space kilometers wasn't enough. Today it lies at the New York Museum of Natural History. European settlers found it more than a hundred years ago next to Portland (Oregon). This is the story of Tomanowos, the mysterious meteorite.

Tomanowos, the mysterious meteorite, exhibited in a museum

Tomanowos is a rare 15-ton meteorite composed of iron and nickel (Fe 91%, Ni 7.6%). These Fe and Ni atoms were formed by nuclear fusion in the core of stars. Converted into supernovae, they suffered gigantic explosions that scattered them through space.

A long, long time ago

About 4.5 billion years ago, these atoms swarmed in a cosmic debris nebula that began to aggregate to form protoplanets in the solar system. Tomanowos was part of the nucleus of one of these protoplanets, in whose center the heaviest metals always accumulate.

About 4 billion years ago, a collision between two of those protoplanets returned it to space. A crash is the only known way to extract a 15-ton mass from the center of a protoplanet. Just 17,000 years ago, Tomanowos's orbit finally intersected with Earth's. The meteorite entered our atmosphere. He placidly landed on a ice cap in Canada.

The glacier slowly transported Tomanowos to a glacial tongue that blocked the Fork River in Montana (USA). Carried away by the glacier, the rock reached the ice dam just the year it collapsed due to water pressure. It caused one of the largest floods ever documented: the Missoula floods. They shaped the Scablands and transformed the landscape of Washington state. The phenomenon reached an intensity equivalent to several thousand Niagara Falls.

For a long time the meteorite has been very fascinating.
For a long time the meteorite has been very fascinating.
Ride on the ice

The meteorite was trapped in a block of ice and was swept away floating in the flood. It crossed the states of Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Over time it was exposed to the atmosphere. For thousands of years, the rain reacted with a rare mineral on Earth but common in meteorites, troilite (FeS). The water slowly dissolved the iron, forming the cavities in the rock.

The Clacamas arrived in Oregon probably shortly after the flood. They discovered it and gave it a name. Would they know where it came from? Its name means: "the visitor from heaven".

In 1902 a settler named Ellis Hughes decided to secretly appropriate the iron rock by moving it to his land. A neighbor sued Hughes alleging that the rock had landed on his property. In the end, the Oregon Iron Company took ownership of it. And he sold it to the New York museum.

The authorities, who had already decided to relocate the Clacamas to a reserve, also decided to relocate Tomanowos, the mysterious meteorite, to the other US coast. USA Today, the descendants of the clacamas still retain the right to visit the visitor who brought heaven, water and earth together in the last stop of their stellar adventure.

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