Every year around ten meteorites land on France, but only one in a hundred of these ever gets found. One of the most recent ones to be discovered thunked down nearly a year ago on 13th July 2011. A postman saw a big lump of rock fall into the garden of a house in Savigny-sur-Orge. At first he thought it was an aeroplane’s wheel. When someone else reported seeing something fall in a slightly different location, at Draveil, then the hunt was on. A total of 6 meteorites were found in the area. The biggest of them, weighing in at 5.2kg, is on display in the Muséum d’histoire naturelle in Paris. It’s reckoned to be 4.6 billion years old, formed at the same time as the solar system itself.
Meteorites are quite valuable, worth anything up to 10 euros per gramme. So this newest 5.2 kg one could be worth as much as €52,000. The owner – the person whose land it fell on (that’s how it works with meteorites) – kindly sold it to the museum for a lot less as they simply wanted it to go on display and be seen by as many people as possible.
A few facts and figures for you. Only 65 meteorites have been observed to fall in France since the fifteenth century. The heaviest one ever found in this country is a whopping 625 kg and was discovered in the seventeenth century in the Alpes-Maritimes. However, it wasn’t until 1828 that it was positively recognised as being from outer space.
France’s meatiest meteorite landed in Limousin, which is our région of France. It crashed down at Rochechouart roughly 200 million years ago. It’s estimated that it was 20 km in diameter and weighed 6 billion tonnes. Not surprisingly it left a bit of a crater or astroblème and the area is famous for its shocked quartz. The shockwave from the meteorite completely and permanently transformed the local rocks. We visited Rochechouart a few years ago now, pre-blog, so it’s probably due for another visit soon. I’ll be able to tell you all about the meteorite then.
As far as I can make out, only two French people have ever been killed by meteorites, both of them farmers, and sadly very unlucky people, one in 1780 and the second in 1879. So it’s not something to worry about too much if you either live in France or come here on holiday.