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Space Fans in France Being Urged to Help Find Apricot-sized Meteorite That Fell to Earth

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

The rock was captured plunging through the atmosphere by cameras at an astronomy education facility in Mauraux.

Space fans in France are being urged to join forces to find an apricot-sized meteorite that fell to Earth last weekend in the southwest of the country.

The rock, estimated to weigh 150 grammes (just over five ounces), was captured plunging through the atmosphere by cameras at an astronomy education facility in Mauraux falling at exactly 10:43 pm Saturday near Aiguillon, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Bordeaux.

The site is part of the Vigie-Ciel (Sky Watch) project of around 100 cameras in the Fireball Recovery and InterPlanetary Observation Network (FRIPON), which aims to detect and collect the 10 or so meteorites that fall on France each year.

“Meteorites are relics of the solar system’s creation, with the benefit of never being exposed to the elements,” said Mickael Wilmart of the A Ciel Ouvert (Open Sky) astronomy education association that operates the Mauraux observatory.

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“A fresh meteorite like this, which fell just a few days ago, hasn’t been altered by the Earth’s environment and therefore contains very precious information for scientists,” he said.

The search is already underway but calls for help have been issued on social media, and posters have been put up in areas where the rock is most likely to have fallen.

But Wilmart acknowledged that the chances of success are slim.

“It’s a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack,” he said.

“We’re really counting on people to look in their gardens, or along the side of the road, they might just stumble on this rock that’s wanted to badly,” he said.

Recently, a flash that lit up the skies over parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio was probably a random meteor, an expert said.

Many social media users around the Pittsburgh area reported seeing a streaking fireball shortly after 4 a.m. It remained in the skies for a short time before disappearing from view.

A security camera at a property owned by Mark and Rosemary Sasala in New Lyme, Ohio, northwest of Pittsburgh, captured a brief, bright flash partially obscured by clouds around 4:20 a.m.

The American Meteor Society, a nonprofit group, said it received more than 200 reports of a bright fireball over eastern Ohio. Robert Lunsford, a society official, said the fireball was most likely a random meteor not associated with any known meteor shower.

first published:March 06, 2021, 09:22 IST