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Elbogen (meteorite)

Elbogen (meteorite)

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Elbogen also the Loket Iron (ˈlokɛt), is an iron meteorite
Iron meteorite
Iron meteorites are meteorites that consist overwhelmingly of nickel-iron alloys. The metal taken from these meteorites is known as meteoric iron and was one of the earliest sources of usable iron available to humans.-Occurrence:...

 that fell in the village of Loket
Loket
Loket is a town of some 3 000 inhabitants in the Sokolov District in the Karlovy Vary region of the Czech Republic.Loket means "elbow" in English. The town is named this due to the town centre being surrounded on three sides by the Ohře River, and the shape the river takes is similar to that of an...

, Karlovy Vary region, in the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, about the year 1400. Also known during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 as the "bewitched burgrave" of Elbogen, due to a cursed Count at the Elbogen castle
Loket Castle
Loket Castle is a 12th-century Gothic style castle located about 12 km from Karlovy Vary on a massive rock in the town of Loket, Karlovarský kraj, Czech Republic. It is surrounded on three sides by the Ohře river. Once known as "the Impregnable Castle of Bohemia", because of its thick walls,...

, it is the oldest of 15 recorded falls in the Czech Republic. It has not survived to our time in its original size, having been cut for scientific purposes and its pieces sent to museums all around the world.

Structure


Weighing about 107 kg before being cut into pieces, the Elbogen meteorite has an octahedrite
Octahedrite
Octahedrites are a class of iron meteorites within the structural classification. They are the most common class of iron meteorites.They are composed primarily of the nickel-iron alloys: taenite - high nickel content, and kamacite - low nickel content....

 structure. Its dimensions were approximately 50 x 30 x 20 cm and the mass was rounded and wedge-shaped. The whole surface is covered with dark gray oxides of iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, dull and without the signs of the original fusion crust. The iron must have been partially, if not completely, artificially heated or forged in an iron mill.
The cut, etched surface of the meteorite shows a Widmanstätten pattern
Widmanstätten pattern
Widmanstätten patterns, also called Thomson structures, are unique figures of long nickel-iron crystals, found in the octahedrite iron meteorites and some pallasites. They consist of a fine interleaving of kamacite and taenite bands or ribbons called lamellæ...

 with tiny round troilite
Pyrrhotite
Pyrrhotite is an unusual iron sulfide mineral with a variable iron content: FeS . The FeS endmember is known as troilite. Pyrrhotite is also called magnetic pyrite because the color is similar to pyrite and it is weakly magnetic...

 modules. The main mass of the meteorite is formed by nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

-iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 alloys.

Analysis


The Elbogen meteorite is not only one of the oldest recorded falls in history, but also the very iron that Alois von Widmanstätten used to discovered the hidden internal structure of iron meteorites in 1808. Interestingly, instead of etching the iron to reveal these structures, analytic model previously discovered by G. Thomson
G. Thomson
G. Thomson was an English geologist. He died in Palermo at the early age of 46 years.-Name:His name is indicated only with G. because the full name is unknown. In several secondary sources he is called William Thomson or William Thompson, and sometimes is even confused with Lord Kelvin...

 in 1804, he heated a slab of the iron in the flame of a Bunsen burner
Bunsen burner
A Bunsen burner, named after Robert Bunsen, is a common piece of laboratory equipment that produces a single open gas flame, which is used for heating, sterilization, and combustion.- Operation:...

 and so had the figures that would be later named after him revealed.

In 1811, Mr. K. A. Neumann, a professor of chemistry at the technical institute in Prague had a small piece sent to him for chemical analysis and recognized it as being a piece of a meteorite. This was later confirmed by the German chemist von Klaproth
Martin Heinrich Klaproth
Martin Heinrich Klaproth was a German chemist.Klaproth was born in Wernigerode. During a large portion of his life he followed the profession of an apothecary...

 and the physicist Dr. Chladni
Ernst Chladni
Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni was a German physicist and musician. His important works include research on vibrating plates and the calculation of the speed of sound for different gases. For this some call him the "Father of Acoustics"...

. Later, the mass was divided into two uneven parts, of which the larger, weighing about 79 kg was taken to the royal and imperial natural history museum in Vienna. The smaller piece, weighing about 14 kg is still at the city hall in Loket.

Elbogen is classified as a member of the IID chemical group of iron meteorites, a relatively uncommon group with <20 known members (see iron meteorite
Iron meteorite
Iron meteorites are meteorites that consist overwhelmingly of nickel-iron alloys. The metal taken from these meteorites is known as meteoric iron and was one of the earliest sources of usable iron available to humans.-Occurrence:...

s for more information). The chemical composition of the Elbogen meteorite is of 10.2% Ni, 74.5 ppm Ga, 87 ppm Ge, 14 ppm Ir.

Superstition


Over the years many legends about the Elbogen meteorite have arisen. Some of them date back to the years 1350-1430, when Loket castle used to be the seat of the burgrave. It is said that one of them, perhaps Puta von Illburk, was cursed by an old woman, struck by lightning and transformed into this hard piece of iron. According to another legend, this same margrave of Elbogen used to oppress and ill-treat his subjects with so much cruelty that after his death he was turned into an iron block, which could not even have been melted in the very hot blaze of a furnace.

In those days, superstition also had that the Elbogen meteorite was fixed with chains in the dungeon of the Loket castle for fear that it would change weight over time, and even if thrown into the deep castle well that it would always reappear. During the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 the royal and imperial general Johann von Werth
Johann von Werth
Count Johann von Werth , also Jan von Werth or in French Jean de Werth, was a German general of cavalry in the Thirty Years' War.-Biography:...

 decided to try this out by having it thrown into the castle well. However, by the end of 1670 the water in the well was drawn off and the stone was pulled out and brought into the castle. In 1742, the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 threw the rock back into the well and it stayed there until sometime in 1776 when it was once more recovered.

Contrary to this story, historical resources explain the origin of the stone as being a meteorite of the size of a horse head.

Distribution


The meteorite was cut for scientific purposes in the 19th century and many of the pieces were sent to museums all over the world. The biggest piece of the meteorite is deposited in the Naturhistorisches Museum
Naturhistorisches Museum
The Naturhistorisches Museum Wien or NHMW is a large museum located in Vienna, Austria.The collections displayed cover , and the museum has a website providing an overview as a video virtual tour....

 in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, weighing roughly 80 kg.
  • Naturhistorisches Museum
    Naturhistorisches Museum
    The Naturhistorisches Museum Wien or NHMW is a large museum located in Vienna, Austria.The collections displayed cover , and the museum has a website providing an overview as a video virtual tour....

    , Vienna
    Vienna
    Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

     - 79 kg
  • Town Hall, Loket
    Loket
    Loket is a town of some 3 000 inhabitants in the Sokolov District in the Karlovy Vary region of the Czech Republic.Loket means "elbow" in English. The town is named this due to the town centre being surrounded on three sides by the Ohře River, and the shape the river takes is similar to that of an...

     - 14 kg
  • Charles University in Prague
    Charles University in Prague
    Charles University in Prague is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe and is also considered the earliest German university...

    , Prague
    Prague
    Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

     - 6 kg
  • National Museum (Prague)
    National Museum (Prague)
    The National museum is a Czech museum institution intended to systematically establish, prepare and publicly exhibit natural scientific and historical collections. It was founded 1818 in Prague by Kašpar Maria Šternberg...

    , Prague
    Prague
    Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

     - 6.7 kg
  • Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    Berlin
    Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

     - 225 g
  • Harvard University
    Harvard University
    Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

    , Harvard - 169 g
  • University of Tübingen, Tübingen
    Tübingen
    Tübingen is a traditional university town in central Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated south of the state capital, Stuttgart, on a ridge between the Neckar and Ammer rivers.-Geography:...

     - 146 g

  • National Museum of Natural History
    National Museum of Natural History
    The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States. Admission is free and the museum is open 364 days a year....

     - Washington, D.C.
    Washington, D.C.
    Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

     - 70 g
  • Field Museum of Natural History
    Field Museum of Natural History
    The Field Museum of Natural History is located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It sits on Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan, part of a scenic complex known as the Museum Campus Chicago...

    , Chicago
    Chicago
    Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

     - 60 g
  • American Museum of Natural History
    American Museum of Natural History
    The American Museum of Natural History , located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world...

    , New York
    New York
    New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

     - 46 g
  • Vatican Colla
    Holy See
    The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

    , Rome
    Rome
    Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

     - 32 g
  • Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa
    Ottawa
    Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

     - 8 g
  • Russian Academy of Sciences
    Russian Academy of Sciences
    The Russian Academy of Sciences consists of the national academy of Russia and a network of scientific research institutes from across the Russian Federation as well as auxiliary scientific and social units like libraries, publishers and hospitals....

    , Moscow
    Moscow
    Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

     - 4.98 g
  • Max Planck Institute, Mainz
    Mainz
    Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

    - 1 g


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