The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 434
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
occultations, events when the Moon passed in front of a star or later
revealed it. Such observations were important for the derivation of the
lunar "ephemeris," the word describing the formula or calculations
from it that permit the prediction of future lunar positions at any time.
The word is also used to describe predictions of planetary positions or
indeed, also, of the brightness of variable stars.
These last are the happy hunting ground of large numbers of ama-
teurs who report their magnitudes to a central organization in Cam-
bridge, Massachusetts-the American Association of Variable Star Ob-
servers, founded three quarters of a century ago. There are dozens of
different kinds of variable stars, some of which repeat with clockwork
regularity in minutes or months, others far less regularly, and some
with explosive irregularity in violent outbursts changing brightness
manyfold in times of seconds or days according to type. Chief among
the latter are novae and the rare supernovae, the latter increasing in
brightness by tens of thousands of times in a few days before fading
slowly over several months.
Astronomy came to Texas with a bang some fifty million years ago
when a large meteorite struck the Earth twenty miles south of Fort
Stockton and made a crater eight miles across. The crater edges have
long since been eroded and the depression filled in, but the central up-
lift still remains as a prominent isolated hill, the Sierra Madera, just
north of the Glass Mountains.'
Events such as this present a problem to the chronicler of astro-
nomical history. Meteorites in flight are astronomy; when they land
they turn into geology. Even so we must mention a much more recent
impact site ten miles southwest of the present site of Odessa, where
there is a principal crater ninety feet deep and ten acres in extent.
From this, now almost filled with debris, and two smaller craters, nu-
merous meteorite fragments consisting of 91 percent iron and 7 per-
cent nickel have been recovered by geologists.2
In 1772, Athanase de Mezieres made what is probably the first writ-
ten reference to meteoritic iron in Texas. On an expedition near the
Brazos River, de Mezieres visited an Indian village that was
only a short distance from a mass of metal which the Indians say is hard, thick,
heavy, and composed of iron. They venerate it as an extraordinary manifesta-
I K. A. Howard, T. W. Offield, and H. G. Wilshire, "Structure of Sierra Madera, Texas,"
Geological Soczety of America Bulletin, LXXXIII (Sept., 1972), 2795-28o8.
2E. H. Sellards, "Meteor Crater at Odessa," in Walter Prescott Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and
Eldon Stephen Branda (eds.), The Handbook of Texas (3 vols., Austin: Texas State Historical As-
sociation, 1952, 1976), II, 18o.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/504/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.