When your last name is Comette, I’m sure the occasional astronomy-themed joke is never far away. But it’s no joke that the Comette family living in Draveil, a suburb south of Paris, was paid a visit by a real extraterrestrial a couple of weeks ago – in the form of an 88-gram (3.5 oz.) meteorite that broke through their roof!
The Comettes were on vacation at the time, so didn’t realize their house had been struck by a space rock until they noticed a leak in the roof. When they called in a roofer it was discovered that a thick tile had been completely broken through.
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The meteorite was found wedged in insulation.
Mineral scientist Alain Carion investigated the meteorite and determined that it’s an iron-rich chondrite, a 4.57-billion-year-old remnant of the early Solar System that most likely came from the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. About 3/4 of all meteorites that have been observed landing on Earth are chondrites.
While obviously not impossible, the odds of your home being hit my a meteorite are incredibly slim. Only 145 meteorites have been documented landing in the US in the past 200 years. On March 26, 2003, just before midnight, hundreds of fragments of a large meteorite fell in the Park Forest area of Chicago. Several fell through roofs of houses and one punched a hole in the roof of the fire station. One large piece weighing about 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) crashed into a bedroom, narrowly missing a boy who was asleep in his bed! On September 23, 2003, a 20 kg (44 lb) stone meteorite tore straight through a two-storey house in New Orleans and came to rest in the basement. (Source: University of New Mexico Institute of Meteoritics.)
Only about 50 meteorites have been found in France over the past four centuries, and none has ever before been discovered less than 80 km (50 miles) from Paris.
While they could attempt to sell the meteorite that struck their home, possibly fetching several hundred euros for it, the Comettes have decided to keep their otherworldly visitor.
“A piece of the history of space of which we know nothing, but which is fascinating, has fallen on us,” Mrs. Comette told the Le Parisien newspaper. “It’s like a fairytale, and less likely than winning the lottery, we’re told.”
Read more on The Guardian or on The Local.
Image found on Stargazers Lounge.