It's not common to find prospectors trudging across the vast plains of southwestern Kansas, but Steve Arnold isn't your ordinary treasure-hunter. A professional meteorite collector from Kingston, Arkansas, Arnold made the discovery of a lifetime in late October when he discovered a rare stony-iron meteorite weighing more than 1,400 pounds (650 kilograms).
The area near Brenham Township in Kansas already had a reputation for meteorites stretching back to 1882, when the first sample from an extensive fall was found. Arnold went looking for more, crisscrossing the farmlands with a sensitive metal detector attached to an all-terrain vehicle. The massive discovery lay more than 7 feet below the surface, and it took 2½ hours of digging with a large backhoe to unearth it.
Arnold's find represents the largest known fragment of the Brenham fall, eclipsing a 1,040-pound specimen found in 1949. The meteorite is a rather rare type known as a pallasite, consisting of large gemlike crystals of the mineral olivine embedded in a mass of iron and nickel. The recent find ranks as the largest pallasite found in the United States, but more remarkable is its streamlined shape indicating that this space rock maintained the same orientation throughout its fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere.