But credible reports of a massive, oddly shaped and colored stone in the remote Altai Mountains of Xinjiang Uygur province (in northwest China) got his attention. So earlier this month he assembled a small team to check it out firsthand. The trek was cold and arduous, involving a rented jeep, borrowed horses, and even a camel to cross rugged terrain and rivers still swollen with snowmelt.
On the afternoon of July 16th, after reaching a mountainous crest 9,500 feet (2,900 m) up Zhang and his team finally spotted their objective: a large dark-brown stone jutting from the ground. It took only moments for him to realize what they'd found. "This is a huge iron meteorite," he exulted as cameras recorded the scene.
largest meteorites known, perhaps even surpassing China's current record-holder, the 28-ton Armanty iron, found in the same region in 1898.
Apparently the big stone's existence has been well known among locals for decades. A few scrawls of graffiti have been cut into the exterior, which also bears "saw marks" that expose the interior. As Zhang reports, "The surface was shiny silver, and I can clearly see exposed not only the iron-nickel composition but also the unique grid lines," called a Widmanstätten pattern, that are common among iron meteorites.
Conceivably, the Xinjiang and Armanty meteorites are part of the same fall; tests should soon establish whether they are siblings or just happen to be enormous unrelated hunks of meteoritic metal that fell to Earth from interplanetary space.
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