8 Wonders of Kansas geography

An 8 Wonder of Kansas Geography

Brenham Meteorites, near Haviland

Address: 21255 K Street, Haviland, KS 67059
Phone: 620.723.2318
Website: www.kansasmeteorite.com

Brenham Meteorites are a finalist because...they are a rare, stony-iron type, they formed the world's largest strewnfield of its kind and are one of only three U.S. craters authenticated by the presence of meteorites.


Learn about the Brenham Meteorites at the Kansas Meteorite Museum at Kiowa County Avenue 45 and K Street, two miles south of Highway 54/400.  Open Friday-Sunday 1-6 p.m. and by appointment.  Contact Sheila or Don at meteoritemuseum@gmaxx.us or 620.723.2318.  Admission is free.

Ten tons of Brenham meteorites fell to earth an estimated 20,000 years ago near what is now Haviland.  This created the Haviland Meteorite Crater, one of only three craters in the U.S. that is authenticated by the presence of meteorites, and the only one of the three that was created by a rare, stony-iron (pallasite) meteorite.  The pallasites make up only a fraction of a percent of all meteorites and are arguably the most attractive type of meteorite.  They have an internal structure of chrome-like metal imbedded with beautiful olivine stone. Slices of the meteorite often reveal translucent, see-through crystals ranging in colors from yellows, oranges and reds, to green, the equivalent of earth peridot, the August birthstone.

The fall must have been both frightening and spectacular, occurring long before there was a state of Kansas. Some 10+ tons of these meteorites were scattered along a line-of-entry and created the largest pallasite "strewnfield" in the world, stretching over approximately seven miles in length and around a mile wide. The meteorites were buried over time.  They range in size from grains of sand to around 3/4 of a ton (so far).

The crater and meteorite are known worldwide. All major museums of the world have Brenham specimens. The world's largest collection and display of Brenham meteorites lies right in the strewnfield at the Kansas Meteorite Museum. The 1,000 pound meteorite that was on display at the Big Well in Greensburg prior to the tornado that destroyed the town in 2007, was a Brenham meteorite. It is back on display at the Greensburg City Hall (open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.). This meteorite is not just a Kansas treasure but a national and worldwide treasure, sent to us from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

"Brenham meteorite" is the name given to a single fall of a particular meteoroid (the bigger parent body to a meteorite) an estimated 20,000 years ago. The many space rocks of this one fall were named after the closest town, Brenham,
at the time it was officially documented as a meteorite. (Note:  Brenham Township is in Kiowa County between Greensburg and Haviland). The meteoroid most likely originated in the asteroid belt, an orbit in the solar system located between Mars and Jupiter and chock full of rocky bodies thought to be left-overs from the formation of the solar system. The meteoroid that dropped the Brenham meteorites is estimated to have been 500 tons as it approached Earth. As it made its fiery entry through the atmosphere most of the material was vaporized but at least ten tons fell.

In addition to the stony-iron meteorites, some of the Brenhams are entirely iron-nickel metal, the polished interior looking like a mirror. Their striking size, shapes and internal structures are like nothing else seen on earth, making them truly unique, not only to Kansas but to the world.

The meteorites were identified by Native Americans as being of great interest, though its not known whether they were aware of their celestial origin.They were evidently revered objects, since pieces of the Brenham meteorites were found in the burial mounds of the Hopewell Indians in Little Miami Valley, Ohio. The Kimberlys, Kansas homesteaders in the late 1800s, believed the dark stones they were finding were meteorites. They were able to get the scientific community interested enough to obtain scientific verification of their hunch.

These early meteorite finds were often on the land's surface or only at shallow depths, such that they were struck by plows and other farming implements. Meteorites found today are all underground so cannot be easily seen "in the wild."

Source:  Sheila Knepper, Don Stimpson and Ellis Peck's book Space Rocks and Buffalo Grass.

At the museum you can see Brenham meteorites ranging in size from gravel to an intact 1,200 pound meteorite.  Also on display are Brenham meteorites that have been cut and polished to reveal their internal beauty. There are slices that show the color and clarity of some of the crystals imbedded in these celestial visitors.