The first and largest meteorite ever to strike Illinois (at least in recorded history) fell to Earth in three large pieces near the town of Tilden in southwest Illinois 91 years ago. About 1 p.m. on July 13, 1927, witnesses reported a sound like an airplane passing overhead and backfiring. In fact, a large meteorite exploded three times as it streaked through the sky, rattling windows and shaking dishes. Three pieces, weighing 110, 46, and 9 pounds, landed within a two-mile circle, with each piece landing in a different county. The smallest piece landed just north of the main street in Tilden in Randolph County. The largest piece (now in the Museum of Iowa State University) landed in St. Clair County. The 46-pound piece (pictured) fell one mile north of Tilden in Washington County. The nine-pound piece was sliced so scientists from other institutions could analyze its composition. Some slices are now located in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and in the Smithsonian Institution.
The Tilden meteorite, which is composed of stone, not iron, is the largest of the 72 meteorite specimens, from 22 distinct meteorites around the world, that are held in the Illinois State Museum Legacy Collection.