Mexico is a territory in which a high number of meteorite impacts have been viewed and recorded. There are over 90 documented cased of meteorites that have traversed Mexico, and 22 iron meteorites have been recovered.
Meteorites are visible trajectories of natural objects that enter the atmosphere of the Earth from space. According to the National Geographic, meteorites are space rocks that fall to Earth’s surface. They are extraterrestrial and orbited in space before they became meteors. Meteorites are also known as shooting stars, as they burn up, they appear as a flash of light.
Meteorites are usually the size of dust, but some can be as large as boulders.
These meteorites were recovered close to Cuetzalan, a magical town in the Sierra Norte region mountains, amidst forests with fog. Locals living in the mountains often witness “shooting stars”, then later collect the meteorites.
There are many striking cases of meteorites that have fallen in Mexico.
About 4,600 million years ago, a meteorite impacted the northern region of Mexico. It is known as the Allende meteorite. Tons of fragments of the meteorite were discovered in the town of Allende, in the state of Chihuahua, in February 1969. The Allende meteorite is probably the most important, and is catalogued as the oldest.
More than 65 million years ago, a meteorite impacted the northwest region of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It was called Chicxulub, which means “devil’s flea” or “place of the horn on” in the Mayan language. The meteorite expands to more than 10 kilometers. It has been studied by scientists, as it caused abrupt environmental changes. Many scientists believe that its impact resulted in the extinction of more than half of living things that inhabited Earth.
The Toluca meteorite fell 60 thousand years ago. It is estimated to have weighed 2.5 tons. Inhabitants of Xiquipilco, in the state of Mexico, recovered thousands of fragments from the meteor shower. Meteoritic iron was used to build agricultural implements and various utensils, from anvils to knives.
Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations observed the sky and the universe, elaborated calendars and conjectured connections to celestial forces.
The Casas Grandes meteorite fell eight centuries ago in Paquimé in the state of Chihuaua. It is an iron meteorite that weighed approximately 2 tons. The meteorite was found in 1867 by Mr. Teodoro Alvarado. He found an ancient chamber like those kivas in the United States Southwest that contained mummies carefully wrapped in cloth made of maguey fiber. In a high place in the middle of the chamber, the meteorite was also carefully wrapped in the same ancient cloth.
It is thought that centuries ago, the meteorite had enormous cultural significance for the ancient population of Paquimé. The nearby mountain was considered a sacred site and the population believed that given their location no one could attack them. This huge iron fireball, impacting a sacred place, could then be interpreted by the population as a direct message from the deity Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), whose manifestation in the sky is the Milky Way.
Furthermore, in the pre-Hispanic world, iron was extracted from meteors. It was considered the most precious material, of greater value than gold.
For the Aztecs, meteors and comets were considered signs of cataclysmic omens.
The Morito or San Gregorio meteorite was used as a reference point during pre-Hispanic indigenous routes of the Hidalgo del Parral region in the state of Chihuahua. It weighed about 10 tons, and found in Huejuquilla, Chihuahua.
Other Mexican meteorites
The Zacatecas meteorite was probably found after the arrival of the Spaniards in the state of the same name. It was exhibited on the street in the city of Zacatacas until 1890, when it was transferred to Mexico City.
The Charcas meteorite was found in 1778, reportedly in a corner of the cemetery of the Charcas parish in the city of San Luis Potosí.
The Yanhuitlán meteorite was found in 1825, in the state of Oaxaca. It is also an iron meteorite. It was used as an anvil by the local population.
In 1852, enormous iron masses, fragments of the Chupaderos meteorite, were recovered in Jimenez, Chihuahua. These fragments, Chupaderos I of 14 tons and the Chupaderos II of 6.8 tons were found 250 meters apart. Additional masses were found 40 kilometers away, including the Adargas of 3.4 tons. The Adargas or Concepción meteorite was transported from Adargas to Hacienda la Concepción. Here, a blacksmith tried to melt it.
These fragments were identified as being from same Chupaderos meteoric shower.
The Baracubito meteorite was discovered in 1863 in the state of Sinaloa. The date when it fell is not known. It is a unique iron meteorite, there is no other similar composition in the world. It has not been weighed. It is considered the fifth largest meteorite on Earth.
In 1979, a meteorite fell near the town of El Quemado, close to Acapulco. This meteorite has a composition that does not match the characteristics recorded in other meteorites, so it is categorized as part of a group of meteorites called Acapulcoitas.
In February 2020, a meteorite fireball was viewed in the night sky of Mexico. This meteorite impacted the Yucatan Peninsula as Hurricane Delta landed with winds of about 110 miles per hour. This meteorite was observed in different areas of the Mexican Republic, including Mexico City, the states of Mexico, Puebla, Morelos, Querétaro, Jalisco, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí and Michoacán. The meteorite was most visible in the northern states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas.
Many witnesses were able to capture images of the meteorite fireball blazing through the atmosphere.
Mexican meteorites studied
The presence of meteorites has helped scientists in the development of studies about Earth and its origins.
Several features of fallen masses indicate that the meteorites experience serious shock melting in collisions before impacting Earth and/or during the actual impact.
The Coahuila meteorite studies revealed chromium and iron sulfide content, called daubrelite. These studies predicted that this must be the most common mineral in metal meteorites. (This meteorite was used as an anvil.)
As the chemical compositions and minerals of meteorites can be studied directly, meteorites studies provide data of great importance for Earth and planetary sciences.
The first catalog of Mexican meteorites was made by the engineer Antonio del Castillo. Today, in the Institute of Geology, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), a collection of fragments of Mexican meteorites are exhibited.
The international scientific community also studies meteorites found in Mexico. Fragments of separated Mexican meteorites are observed in small masses, distributed throughout the Americas, Europe, and India.
Catalogue of meteorites found in Mexico – UNAM Cienciorama.pdf
National GeographicProceedings of the United States National Museum (si.edu)