Smiles all around as meteorite hits comet

One of the newest extraterrestrial visitors to land on Earth (at left), an 88 gram meteorite that fell near Paris late this summer. The photo at right shows meteorite collector Alain Carion with Mr. Mosset and Miss Comette. Credit: Alain Carion

OK,¬† now that I’ve drawn you in to this story, here’s the truth. The meteorite didn’t hit exactly hit a comet but rather a ‘Comette’ as in the roof of a home owned by Madmoiselle Comette (pronounced the same) and her companion Monsieur Mosset in Draveil, a suburb of Paris. No one’s quite sure when the meteorite punctured the roof, but it may have happened in August while the couple was on vacation away from the city.

In early September their roof was leaking after a thunderstorm, so they called a roofer to make the repair. While replacing the roofing tiles, he discovered a curious black stone with a pale gray interior and presented it to the owners. Suspecting it might be a meteorite, Mosset later took the stone to the French meteorite collector Alain Carion who owns the Minerals-Fossils-Meteorites shop along the banks of the Seine River in Paris. Carion’s face must have lit up in a big smile, because it was clear to him that the 88g (3 ounces) specimen was indeed a rock from space.

A 5.3 kilogram (11.6 lbs.) new specimen of the Draveil meteorite. Credit: Alain Carion/Impactika.com

In his own words: “Mr. Mosset did show me a splendid extra-terrestrial rock of 88 grams, with all the right features: black fusion crust, regmaglypts , pale matrix inside with traces of iron and troilite, attracted to a magnet. Perfect! We had here a real meteorite, and fallen just outside Paris.” Just an FYI, regmaglypts are those thumbprint shaped depressions seen in some meteorites. They’re places where the heat of entering Earth’s atmosphere has melted out softer materials in the stone.

To the delight of everyone, two additional pieces weighing around 2 and 5.3 kilograms¬† of the meteorite fall have recently been found. Since no known meteorite has ever fallen so near Paris, meteorite collectors around the world are very excited about the possibility of adding a small fragment of history to their collections. From outward appearances, the meteorite looks like an what’s known as an ordinary chondrite. Chondrites are extremely ancient – 4.5 billion years old – and thought to originate in the crusts of asteroids in the asteroid belt. Collisions between asteroids liberate fragments which eventually find their way to Earth and lovely places like Paris.

This week the International Space Station (ISS) begins making passes over the region during the early evening hours. Here are times when you can see it fly over the Duluth, Minn. region. For times for your town, head over to Spaceweather’s Satellite flybys and ener your zip code or log on to Heavens Above. The ISS will appear as a brilliant star moving from west to east. And who knows. Maybe a meteorite will hit your roof too while you’re out with your head in the sky.

* Tonight October 17 starting at 7:52 p.m. Brilliant pass across the southern sky. Disappears into Earth’s shadow just east of Altair near the bottom of the Summer Triangle. * Tuesday October 18 at 6:54 p.m. low in the south and southeast.
* Wednesday October 19 at 7:31 p.m. About as bright as they come. High pass in the southern sky and brighter than Jupiter.
* Thursday October 20 you get two for the price of one. First pass at 6:33 p.m. across the south; 2nd brief pass in the northwest at 8:08 p.m.
* Friday October 21 at 7:10 p.m. Brilliant as it travels nearly directly overhead

One thought on “Smiles all around as meteorite hits comet

  1. so kewl :)
    It’s been a dream of mine since childhood to find a meteorite. maybe 1 day. sigh.
    And it happened just outside Paris ?
    As Blaque Jacques Shellaque used to say in some Bugs Bunny cartoon :
    “But Dis Iz Not Fare”
    have a great day
    paul

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