Polish geologists have unearthed the largest meteorite ever found in Eastern Europe and are hoping the rare find will provide fresh clues about the composition of the Earth's inner core, they said on Wednesday.
"We know the Earth's core is composed of iron, but we can't study it. Here we have a guest from outer space which is similar in structure and we can easily examine it," Professor Andrzej Muszynski told reporters in Poznan, western Poland, where the find was made public Wednesday.
"This can broaden our knowledge about the origins of the universe," the geologist said, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.
Two meteorite hunters found the 300-kilogram cone-shaped hunk of iron, which measures two metres in diameter, late last month two metres underground at the Morasko Meteorite Reserve just north of Poznan.
They were using a device to detect electromagnetic anomalies in the earth's surface.
"Until now, it's the largest find of its kind in this part of Europe," said Professor Wojciech Stankowski.
Fellow geologists at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan who are studying it believe the meteor crash-landed 5000 years ago and is composed mostly of iron with traces of nickel.
"It was like a gold rush, we became very excited. We didn't even bother to eat - we just kept on digging," Muszynski said of its hasty excavation.
Located just north of Poznan, the Morasko Meteorite Reserve boasts seven craters. The largest is nearly 100 metres in diameter and 11 metres deep. Scientists believe the site was formed 5000 years ago by meteors crashing into the Earth.
So far the Morasko reserve, marked by a shallow crater, has given up close to 1500 kilograms of smaller meteorites. Scientists now plan to broaden their hunt for meteorites in the region.