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Canyon Diablo Meteorite

Carnegie Science Center

The term “alien” usually conjures up images of an extraterrestrial life form as seen in countless sci-fi films and horror stories alike. Literally meaning “belonging somewhere else,” the word is used in everything from international law to plant ecology—and often with a certain sense of danger, repugnance, and of irreconcilable, unassimilable differences. Right outside Carnegie Science Center’s Buhl Planetarium, you can touch what remains of a giant alien from outer space: the Canyon Diablo Meteorite. Only a small part of a several-million-ton meteor from which it originated, this alien’s impact took place tens of thousands of years ago in the Pleistocene epoch alongside wooly mammoths and saber-toothed cats. When it crossed the earth’s atmospheric border, it likely traveled at a relentless 26,000 mph!

At 4.5 billion years old this planetary guest is older than Earth itself.
The Diablo hit the Arizona desert with a 2.5 mega-ton force impact leaving a crater that is nearly a mile wide which you can see to this day. Scientists estimate that somewhere between 18,000 and 84,000 meteorites enter our atmosphere every year, though very few survive the descent to the surface.
Its violent passage to Earth has permanently formed its shape, color, and surface. While it’s clearly not from around here, Pittsburghers are very welcoming.
Smooth, surprisingly heavy, and magnetic.