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Rare meteorite that lit up Arizona sky receives tribal name

PHOENIX — A rare meteorite that crashed into Native American land after lighting up the skies over Arizona last year has been given a tribal name.

Arizona State University said the meteorite’s full name is Dishchii’bikoh Ts’iłsǫǫsé Tsee, which is Apache for Cibecue Star Rock. The meteorite was found near the town of Cibecue, which is on Apache land in eastern Arizona.

About 15 pieces of the rock were recovered less than a month after they fell to Earth by a team of ASU researchers. It is thought the pieces came from a meteor about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle that entered the atmosphere moving about 40,000 mph.

The meteorite was one of only 50 of its type that have been found in the world. Dishchii’bikoh is the first in North America.

Though the meteorite is a chondrite — the most common type of meteor — it does have some unusual features.

“In one respect it’s an ordinary chondrite, but when we looked at the structure there’s aspects we’ve never seen before. This is where the future scientific analysis will take place,” Laurence Garvie, research professor and curator of the Center for Meteorite Studies in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, said in a press release.

Garvie said the identification and naming processes took about one year to complete.

“It’s something the public knows almost nothing about,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. It’s not just me eyeballing it saying, ‘It’s a whatever.’ It’s hours of work here and hours of work on microscopes and hours of work looking through boring Excel spreadsheets.”

“Then you have to write a report and then you have to submit it to the nomenclature committee and then, assuming everything is OK, you have to publish your findings. So it’s a long, long process.”

The meteorite belongs to the tribe, but it has agreed to allow it to be curated in perpetuity at ASU’s Tempe campus.

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