The Green Brenham was part of a 35-pound meteorite that landed on earth at least 5,000 years ago. After Geoffrey Notkin and his treasure-hunting partner, Steve Arnold, discovered the stone in 2005 in rural Kansas, Notkin had it sliced into 12 pieces. He kept this 12.5-pound chunk, the largest one, for himself and sold the rest to collectors. The Green Brenham is one of five meteorites (meteors are shooting stars; they become meteorites when they hit the ground) that Notkin and Arnold found that year at the Kansas site, which is named for the nearby town of Brenham.
The Green Brenham is classified as a pallasite, a rare form of meteorite that contains semiprecious gems known as peridots. A meteorite’s peridots normally are brown, having been corroded by water and weather, but the Green Brenham’s, as the name indicates, are bright green. Notkin suspects the peridots retained their color because the meteorite landed in dry, dense clay that shielded the gems from the elements.
Notkin owns Aerolite Meteorites, a Tucson, Ariz., company that buys and sells meteorites, but he insists that he will not part with the Green Brenham. “To find a spectacular meteorite is almost a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he says. “And it’s a historic American find. People have been hunting for meteorites at the Brenham site since 1880, and the consensus was that all the Brenhams had been found.”
Notkin dug three feet into the Kansas soil to uncover the Green Brenham. “The first thing I saw was a tiny, muddy crystal the size of a coffee bean reflecting in the sunlight. That told me almost beyond a doubt that we had uncovered a pallasite,” he says, adding that after he removed it from the ground, “I sat looking at it a long time, imagining where it had come from and how long it had been there.” Notkin claimed his prize in 2006, a year after he found the meteorite, by paying an undisclosed sum to the firm that holds the mineral rights to the land. He estimates that the pallasite is worth as much as $18,000.
Notkin also owns a 150-pound meteorite, which a friend found three years ago in South America, in an area called Campo del Cielo (field of heaven). The dimples on the stone suggest that the atmosphere’s heat melted it as it fell to earth. “It’s literally been sculpted by the elements,” Notkin says. “It’s a natural space sculpture.”