In a story that has gone viral, a French woman describes how she was injured when she was hit by a rock from space. But experts suggest that all is not what it seems in this meteoric tale.
The woman, who resides in Schirmeck in the French province of Bas-Rhin, said she was sitting on her porch around 4 a.m. local time on July 6 when she heard a shock on the roof. Then a pebble fell from the roof and hit her at the level of her rib.
“I heard a ‘bum’ coming from the roof next to us. In the second that followed, I felt a jolt in the ribs. I thought it was an animal, a bat,” the woman told French newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace. “We thought it was a piece of cement, the ones we apply on hillside tiles, but it had no color.”
The paper showed an image of the suspected space rock, which is black and has sharp edges. But in these pictures, the first cracks appear in the interpretation of the meteorite. The astronomer at the Paris Observatory, Jeremy Vaubillon, explained that the rocks pictured are definitely not from outer space.
“The pictures clearly show that this is not a meteorite! These rocks have too many angles to be meteorites. Remember that as they fly through the atmosphere, the proto-rock melts due to the surrounding superheated plasma,” Vaupillon told Space.com by email. “Imagine an ice cube melting: it quickly has no corner pieces left. Well, the same thing happens to a meteor as it passes through the atmosphere.”
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The rock also has a “bubble” and irregular surface. This feature is common with igneous rocks: lava bubbles solidify as molten rock cools rapidly. On the other hand, space rocks that pass through Earth’s atmosphere tend to have smooth surfaces because of the heat they’re exposed to and the melting they cause, Vaupillon noted.
Few people suspect that something happened to the Frenchwoman on July 6th. But Fopilon isn’t the only expert who has expressed skepticism about the offending rocks supposedly from space.
François Colla, astronomer with the Fireball Recovery and InterPlanetary Observation Network (FRIPON) sky observation network, explained to the French astronomy publication torrent and space that when a meteor falls from the sky, it tends to hit the surface at about 186 miles per hour (300 km/h). So, if the 6th of July rock was a meteorite, it should have damaged the roof on impact. But that didn’t happen here, Colas said.
Additionally, Fripon monitors the skies over France for flashes of light caused by meteors, but none were detected in the area on July 6. If this was a space rock, other skywatchers might have missed that object, too.
Such a body reaches magnitude -15 [with the minus prefix indicating a particularly bright object over Earth]; Do not go unnoticed. In this season, there are also many amateur astronomers observing; Colas explained that they would have reported such an event.
The odds also don’t favor an extraterrestrial origin for the rock. Vopaillon explained how incredibly unlikely it is for a meteorite falling to Earth to hit Earth.
The astronomer said: “The fall of a meteorite is rare; most of the meteorite material melts during entry into the atmosphere.” “In order to survive the entry and reach the ground, the boulder would have to be both slow and large, over 1.6 feet. [0.5 meters] In diameter, large bodies are rare. “
In addition, Earth is a very large target for space rocks, and about 71% of its surface is ocean.
“The Earth’s surface is very wide compared to the size of a person,” Vaupillon said. “Two-thirds of the meteorite eventually falls into the ocean, and most of the remaining meteorites end up in fields, forests, deserts, etc.”
Vaubaillon calculates that the chances of someone being hit by a meteorite are about 1 in 100 trillion. And this tiny possibility should come as a huge relief. The astronomer also explained what it would be like to be hit by a meteorite directly.
“It will hurt!” He said. “It depends on the size of the rock, but it falls from a very high altitude, and its velocity settles at about 190 miles per hour. Imagine you hit a rock while driving at such a speed. It will hurt you a lot.”
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