A large meteorite discovered near Bayard by the late Dr. Art Struempler while he was on the science faculty at Chadron State College will be the centerpiece of an exhibit that will open Saturday, Feb. 24, in the Cooper Gallery of Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Eventually named the “Bayard Meteorite,” it was discovered in 1982 by Struempler while he was sorting through a junk pile on a farm he and his family owned. The land is a few miles west of Bayard in Scotts Bluff County.
The meteorite weighs 165 pounds and is oval shaped, similar to a football. Someone once remarked, “It looks like God threw down a big one” with regard to the object.
At the time it was found, it was one of 2,600 documented meteorite finds in the world. Struempler, who had 14 “refereed” articles published in scientific journals in the 10 years prior to his retirement from Chadron State, wrote several articles about the meteorite.
After he conducted preliminary research on it, he sent samples of the specimen to scientists in Iowa, New Mexico, England and Germany for their analysis.
The Bayard is a stony meteorite composed mostly of silicate, or stony, minerals. It also contains sufficient nickel-iron metal to be magnetic, and small, shiny metal fragments are visible on its surface.
Most meteorites burn up between 50 and 30 miles above land, according to information provided by Morrill Hall personnel.
Mark Harris, associate director of Morrill Hall, calls the Bayard “one of the most important meteorite finds in the region. It’s fascinating, unique and dwarfs anything we have around here that fell from space.”
Struempler was born and raised on a farm in Dawson County north of Lexington. He was a B-17 pilot who flew 26 missions over Germany during World War II.
After the war, he earned a degree in animal science at the University of Nebraska in 1949. He also earned a master of science degree in chemistry from UNL in 1953 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Iowa State in 1957.
Prior to coming to Chadron State in 1965, he was an operations analyst with Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha for three years.
Struempler was chairman of the Division of Science and Mathematics at CSC for more than 15 years. After that, he continued to teach chemistry at CSC for 11 years before retiring in 1991.
He was among the first scientists in the nation to study radon concentrations in the air, soil and water, and also researched the effects of absorption of trace minerals at very low concentrations of scientific container surfaces.
He died Aug. 13, 2004 at age 83.
The Art Struempler Flag Plaza at Chadron State was dedicated in his memory in August 2007. It is located north of the Math and Science Building and features a 25-foot flag pole, special landscaping and a concrete bench. Several of Struempler’s students contributed funds to construct the plaza.
Struempler's wife, Jo, was a nurse at the Chadron Community Hospital much of the time they lived in Chadron. She and their son Mike live in Fort Collins, Colo. A daughter, Barbara, lives in Auburn, Ala.
—Con Marshall, CSC Information Services