Canon City Meteorite on Display at PCC

by Cindy Smith

A piece of the historic 1973 Cañon City meteorite is on display at PCC in the Learning Resource Room.  Only the second meteorite in Colorado known to have hit a building at the time, this meteorite broke through a garage roof at a home in northwest Cañon City.  The only occupant home at the time was Misty, the cat.  Unscathed but afraid, Misty reportedly hid for a few days.

The meteorite likely struck the garage roof at about 800’/second or 50 miles/hour.  It burned its way through the asphalt shingle roof and chipped a hole 1/2″ deep and 1.5″ wide  in the concrete floor.   The Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) was called to collect and describe the meteorite.

While in Cañon City, DMNS received permission from the home owner to cut a 3’x4′ struck portion of the garage roof out.  That historic piece of garage roof is now housed in the DMNS collections for posterity, and was brought back to Cañon City and put on display in 2013 when PCC hosted a meteorite program to celebrate the rock’s 40th anniversary.

Roof with meteorite hole
The much larger chunk of meteorite housed in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science collection

The 1.4 kg meteorite broke into 3 large pieces and several smaller fragments upon impact.  One weighing 537 grams is located at DMNS, and the other two are housed in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Chicago Field Museum.

The meteorite originated some 60 million miles away as a meteoroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter as debris from the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago.  It is a stony chrondite, the most common type, and was witnessed in the sky by people in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, and Divide.  About 6 meteorites pelt the earth daily.

An interesting note on terminology:

meteoroid – a rock outside earth’s atmosphere
meteor – the rock once it strikes earth’s atmosphere
meteorite – the rock once it has landed on earth

The display was organized by Geology Instructor Steve Wolfe, and will be used by his students in his Historical Geology class.

250 Cañon City students joined in on a field trip to PCC in 2013 to learn about meteorites and to see the Cañon City meteorite that arrived well before they were born.
Canon City Meterorite Fragment
Canon City Meterorite Fragment From Another Angle