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Sołtmany – a new polish meteorite falls  «

April/May 2011

The beginning of this year was not a good one for the people of a meteorites world. There had been no meteorite falling observed anywhere in the world. Therefore, the joy was great when a 'visitor' from outer space finally appeared. The greater joy was that the impact site was located in Sołtmany a small village near Giżycko (northeastern Poland).


When we arrived at the University of Warsaw Department of Geology a microprobe was ready to work. In front of three monitors we found Professor Lukasz Karwowski (University of Silesia, Faculty of Earth Sciences) accompanied by Mrs. Lydia Jeżak, who maintained this complicated device. When the first image came into view, the professor was really energized. – We will study the metallic phase, then sulfide phase and as a final point we will leave the greatest delight – silicate phase – explained the professor staring at the screen. He was keen on the sight of native copper, plagioclase (I have never seen such!) and the melted fusion crust (see: this layer looks like 'black veins'). When the results of chondrules olivine and pyroxenes examination appeared on the screen, we frantically started checking the chart of ferrosilite and fayalite content (defining the type of ordinary chondrite), where they locate. It came out that Sołtmany is type L meteorite. The professor repeated the test, this time he was checking the contents of olivine and pyroxenes in the meteorite's matrix . It is strong L – he said with contentment.

  Woreczko grabbed the phone and called Andrzej S. Pilski, who had suggested from the beginning that the meteorite is of L-type. – I have good news – he said excitedly. It sounded as if a child was just born. Andrzej laughed. He had exactly the same associations. The meteorite from Sołtmany had started to gain identity.


But for us the story connected to this stone began two weeks earlier.


Soltmany main mass Soltmany main mass Soltmany main mass Soltmany main mass

Across Poland

On Sunday, May 1 we were in the town of Świnoujście, when we received the information from Andrzej that the meteorite fell near the town of Giżycko (600 km from the town of Świnoujście). The event took place on Saturday at 6.03 am. The information was sensational, unexpected and it was news that every meteorite fan wanted to hear. After the first excitement, Andrzej requested for help and asked us if we could go there. Because of his work duties he could not go and the matter was urgent.

Sołtmany - we have reach the place

  The information hit us like a thunderbolt. (Hit like a meteorite I would rather say). By evening, Andrzej had verified the information and sent us a picture of the specimen. Around 4 am on Monday we went to the town of Giżycko. At nine o'clock, when we were in the town of Malbork[a] Andrzej asked us to visit him in the town of Frombork, for a briefing on the details. The task was not easy: gathering all possible information, eyewitness accounts, making photographic documentation of impact zone and specimens and also to buy some samples to have a new polish meteorite examined and classiffications (categorized). We also wanted negotiate for the purchase of the specimen for the Museum in Frombork. Most importantly – Andrzej gave us a point of contact who had coordinated everything in the town of Giżycko. This was Mr. Roman Rzepka.

  The route from Frombork to Giżycko was like a race in a computer game. We were playing at a very advanced level! We faced a million turns, narrow roads overgrown with trees and many pot holes. To the despair of some road workers, we drove through one section on freshly poured asphalt! About 14.30 we knocked on Roman's door who had been waiting for us. The day before, Roman and his wife were first at the impact site. They also recommended us to the finder of the meteorite. After preliminary findings and clarifying information we drove with Roman to the farm where the meteorite had fallen.


A farm - a place of impact site A farm - a place of impact site Sołtmany, a farm - a place of impact site Soltmany, a farm - a place of impact site

Eye to eye

We were made very welcome and we started to work. We wrote a draft report and we bought a couple of samples for study. Unfortunately it was too late to take any pictures. We also talked with the owner about the meteorite and what should be done with it – the most appropriate solution would be to have it as a part of the institutional collections[1]. Of course we also had an opportunity to talk about meteorites, about the passion and scientific researches. We also discussed some interesting stories about polish meteorites. They could read more in the "Unearthly treasures" – Andrzej's book which he presented to them with a special dedication. They turned out to be very kind and did not want to make a noise in the media. We asked them if we could come the next day and take a few pictures.

  During dinner, Andrzej made contact with Professor Tadeusz Przylibski (University of Technology, Faculty of Geoengineering, Mining and Geology, Wrocław), who was supposed to conduct and coordinate any study. We arrived at the farm on Tuesday morning. We talked about the circumstances of the meteorite strike, photographed the specimen and the entire impact site and accompanied by the hosts we conducted a reconnaissance around the shed, in which the meteorite hit. In the afternoon we said goodbye to our friendly hosts who seemed a bit tired with the situation. We also did not want to abuse their hospitality. We went to the town of Giżycko for a while and amongst rain and snow we drove back to Warsaw.

Meteorite Sołtmany - main mass

A Big bang

Mrs. Alfreda wakes up every day around 6 am gets up and makes coffee, lights a cigarette. 30 April 2011 was exactly the same.


Hole in the roof

A hole in the roof had been made by a meteorite; it is named 'hammer'

The account is as follows:

"I always get up at 6 am. I brewed coffee, lit a cigarette and opened the kitchen to get rid of the cigarette smoke. All of the sudden I heard something, but I did not know what it was. There was a whistle, such as dropping bomb sound, and then there was a big bang. Actually, it was a long rumble. My son Marcin was in the bathroom and he also heard it despite the closed door. We ran out of the house, Marcin in one sock only. We thought that the house was falling apart (We had just changing the covering of the roof – from heavy tiles to lightweight steel tiles). Everything seemed to be alright but there was a hole in the roof over the shed doors. Then we saw broken roof tiles lying on the ground and a large piece of broken tile was hanging over the edge of the roof."

  "Marcin said that maybe some bird dropped something. I said: what kind of bird could do that? We looked at the sky, because aero planes fly very often over our area. Maybe one or someone dropped something? But there were no planes visible at this moment. The sky was cloudless, but the sun shone buy not yet brightly."

  "Five meters from the hole, on a pile of planks we saw a black stone. I picked it up. It was not as cold as any other stone. It was different, maybe a little warmer. I held it for a while and lay it on the ground. I was going to throw it away, but laid it down instead. We returned home and I looked at my watch, it was 6.06. In the courtyard we had spent no more than 3 minutes."

  "Then I went to visit my daughter Anita in Giżycko. She immediately said: Mom, this is a meteorite. Then I remembered how the week before I had watched a film about meteorites with a long haired guy (probably Robert Haag) on The Discovery Channel. We returned to the impact site. Fragments were scattered over a 45 meters area. Pieces were lying on the step under the hole in the roof. We picked them up. The remains were gathered later by my daughter and her fiance (husband). We took all the stones home and considered what we should do."


Mrs. Alfreda, a sensible and consciously minded person, shared with us another strange remark:

  "Once, my dad always came to see my husband and at six in the morning they would have a cup of coffee together. I do not get up so early! My father had died in June and my husband survived him by a year. I thought that this meteorite might be a sign. Maybe in heaven they drank coffee together and something has fallen?"


Mrs. Alfreda, her daughter and future son-in-law were searching the area behind the shed for more stones did not find any. Mrs. Alfreda phoned a local newspaper, which in turn informed Mr. Roman Rzepka who is interested in meteorites. The next morning, Mr. Rzepka and his wife visited Mrs. Alfreda and confirmed suspicions of her daughter, that the stone was a meteorite. Mr. Rzepka passed this information to Mr. Andrzej Pilski from an observatory in Frombork. This was when Andrzej told us about it.


Meteorite Soltmany - main mass Meteorite Soltmany - main mass Meteorite Soltmany - main mass Meteorite Soltmany - main mass

Written down in rush

Our observations on the meteorite's fall were as follows:

1. A description of sound effect (a single whistle, a single bang, no explosion) indicates that only one stone fell. There was no sound effect suggesting fragmentation. The bang heard by the witnesses was probably caused by the sound wave.

2. The specimen is an oriented-type meteorite and after assembly most of the pieces seemed complete. Probably the fragmentation process occurred at very high altitude.

3. A hole in the roof and marks on the concrete floor and stairs left by the falling stone helped me to determine the approximate direction of flight and angle. It flew from the northeast about 2–3 degrees tilted from the vertical. It struck a perfect shape hole in a thick plank (but did not break it.) This shows it was travelling at great speed[2].

4. The main mass of the biggest specimen is approximately 813 g and TKW approximately 1066 g. The weights of most of the specimens are given by the owner. Perhaps some pieces are still under the planks lying around the shed. All the specimens were weighed on an electronic Kitchen scale (It was holiday season and we did not take the laboratory scale)[3].

5. The meteorite looks like an ordinary chondrite type. It has a chondrite pattern shell, very bright interior with exposed small metal and troilite grains. There is no visible chondrules[4].

6. Searching for more pieces is senseless. The farm is situated on a headland of Wydminskie Lake. Terrain behind the barn is wet and slushy. Due to the repair of the roof of the house, the yard is full of pieces of roof tiles, wood boards, etc.

Race against the clock

We returned home exhausted. But the next day, May 4, gave us a really hard time. The telephones went crazy from early morning, and we responded to numerous emails. At the same time Woreczko photographed and weighed samples and I made a record. In the evening we put the first info to website. We packed the first batch of samples and ordered the courier services. Professor Tadeusz Przylibski waited for the specimens. He was also sending e-mails with his plan of action. When the samples arrived in Wrocław, they were carried by Professor Przylibski and Tomasz Jakubowski to Marcin Cimała where they were cut and prepared for study. At the same time the professor was anxiously looking for an institute in Europe able to examine short-living isotopes, which would determine how long the meteorite was in space. On Sunday, May 9, at midnight, we received information that the Italians could do it (Dr. Matthias Laubenstein, Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, Italy). There was one condition – they must have a specimen by Wednesday May 11, because the test should be carried out within two weeks of falling time. Woreczko was looking for a dependable courier desperately. When the courier took the parcel we were tracking the parcel's route with real concern. "Oh, it is in Paris now, why in Paris?" We started to breath easy when the Italians sent an email that the shipment has arrived. This was on Wednesday at 16.00. Thus, FedEx is a really trustworthy company!

  On Monday Woreczko met with Professor Marek Lewandowski, who took the last batch of samples to Cracow.

Tell me who you are

Professor Pierre Rochette (CEREGE, Aix-Marseille Université, Aix-an-Provence, France) dealt with one of the samples and during the Academy of Sciences in Cracow conference he conducted magnetic susceptibility tests. The results of the measurements were interpreted by Professor Lewandowski: Sołtmany meteorite is a chondrite type meteorite containing a small amount of magnetic minerals, with a low degree of internal deformation (not experienced a collision with another object of the interplanetary space). Therefore it appears that after the disintegration of the parent body, the earth was the first place the stone had met. Professor Karwowski had exactly the same view.

  The Meteorite has been on the Earth for two weeks and its examination and study have just begun. However, because it was found and sent to the laboratories quickly, luck was on our side.


And what about us? We found ourselves in the right place and the right time where we experienced our space adventure. And even if everything turned out to be much more complicated than we thought, in our hands we had a stone which 72 hours before was part of the universe!


More details can be found on the portal, led by Wadi and Woreczko, where all info and results are updated regularly.

Wadi & Jan Woreczko
(English translation: Paweł "Hijos" Wyka)

A hole in roof tiles Soltmany - a hole in the roofing A place of impact site Main mass on the impact point
A try to estimate the falling direction A try to estimate the falling direction Here lay a main mass A try to estimate the falling direction
Wadi and Mrs. Alfreda Wadi and sky-stone Village Kruklanki Woreczko with a "still warm" meteorite


[a]  'The price' was two pictures from police speeding cameras ;-(

[1]  Initially, Mrs. Alfreda insisted that the she did not want publicity and asked Mr. Rzepka asked to with this "trouble". She sold all the material she offered for sale but several fragments she wanted to keep as she defined "in remembrance". She declared that she sold the largest fragment (main mass) to Mr. Andrzej Pilski.

[2]  Since the meteorite was slowed down in the atmosphere it probably changed the original angle of its flight, so this is not the angle at which it entered the atmosphere. In estimating the direction of flight we must also take into account the fact that an impact to the roof boards could change both the angle and direction (the rebound occurrence), consequently the direction given (northeast) should be regarded as approximate! We must also consider the influence of wind on the direction of the flight. When assuming free fall in the atmosphere and by adopting a simple model that the meteorite is a sphere with a density of 3.35 g/cm3 (average density of ordinary chondrite type meteorite) and weight of 1 kg and a drag coefficient of 0.45 falling in a gravitational field – that it had to fall at a speed of at least 82 m/s (about 295 km/h).

[3]  Overall, all the fragments that could be weighed (were weight on scale of 1 gram). Some parts were not weighted because Mrs. Alfreda took some of them, wrapped in handkerchiefs, 'for remembrance', 'for her daughter' etc.

[4]  After the survey with the microprobe professor Łukasz Karwowski confirmed that the meteorite is a L-type chondrite. Conducted measurements of fayalite (Fa) gave a score of about 25.6, while ferrosilite (Fs) of about 21.9. This indicates a strong L-type meteorite.


The Sołtmany – A New Polish Meteorite Fall by Wadi and Jan Woreczko

Article published
in the quarterly
METEORITE August 2011


More details can be found on the portal  •  74th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society, Greenwich, London, UK 2011 abstract

Photos: Wadi & Woreczko

English translation: Paweł "Hijos" Wyka

version: EN | PL

Page update: 2018-01-15 22:58