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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meteorite found safe in museum's rubble

The Wichita Eagle

Finally, there's good news from here.

The town's famous 1,000-pound meteorite is not lost after all. It was just hiding, under the rubble of the museum that has housed it for decades and is no more.

Billed as the world's largest pallasite meteorite, the rock was found right where it has rested for years: on the base of the display case that now lies shattered all around it and buried under a collapsed wall.

Rumors and news reports that said the town's landmark rock had been swept away by the tornado that blew away the rest of the town on Friday?

All wrong.

The meteorite never left its perch.

Don Stimpson never believed the reports anyway.

"Even a 200 mph wind isn't going to move a 1,000-pound rock like this," he said.

Stimpson is a retired biophysicist who works at the destroyed museum. He stood over the rock Monday, surrounded by four Sedgwick County sheriff's deputies and their sergeant, who are guarding the rock. He spoke with evident relief.

"It's part of the reason I moved here from Chicago," Stimpson said of the rock.

The rock is a little damp, he said. But that pales in comparison to burning its way through the atmosphere at several tens of thousands of miles per hour and then being buried for 20,000 or so years. And anyway, it's insured for $1 million.

"It's a pretty solid piece of rock," Stimpson said.

Still, he hopes the town's most treasured artifact can be safely moved to a secure and dry location.

The meteorite was found in 1949 by someone using a modified mine detector from World War II. The detector had been stored in the museum alongside the rock, and mangled pieces of it were found under the rubble.

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