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Recent Falls of Meteorites in France and Italy

Naturevolume 6pages519520 (1872) | Download Citation



THE French Academy of Sciences has recently received several important and interesting accounts of the fall of two or three meteoric masses in France and Italy. On the 23rd of July, about half-past five on a still afternoon, with a perfectly clear sky and a bright sun, a violent report, followed by a rumbling noise, was heard in the commune of Lancé, canton of St. Arnaud (Loir-et-Cher). On the following day it was ascertained that the noise had been heard over a wide area of country, and had caused much uneasiness; and a letter arrived from a landowner of Lile-Bouchard, announcing that he had seen a “fiery lance”shooting across the sky in a direction from S.W. to N.E. with great swiftness. Whilst on its way its point appeared to split, giving rise to two meteors, which continued their way parallel to each other for some distance. Another observer south of Tours had also seen them, and described them as having the shape of a bottle, and being of an orange colour. M. De Tastes, who communicated the first account to the Academy, on proceeding to St. Arnaud, was fortunate enough to learn that one of these meteorites had been seen to fall near Lancé, and he was also successful in finding it. Its weight was 47 kilogrammes (about 103 lbs.), and it had penetrated to a depth of 1.40 metres (about 5 ft. 9 in.). On being removed, it broke into three pieces. Of the second meteorite nothing was heard for some time, but it was ultimately found at a place called Pont-Loisel, about 12 kilometres (71/2 miles) to the south-west of the place where the other had fallen; and an account of it is given to the Academy by M. Daubrée. It is of exactly the same mineralogical character as the one first found, thus showing it originally belonged to it, but its weight is only 250 grammes, and it had only penetrated to the depth of about half a metre. On ascertaining the course of the meteorite, it was found that this, the smallest portion, had fallen first, and that the larger one had continued its course for some distance farther. In this respect it resembled the meteorite which fell on March 14, 1864, near Orgueil (Tarn-et-Garonne), in which the smallest portion, weighing about 15 grammes, first fell, and then the heavier one, weighing 40 grammes. M. Daubrée has recently analysed the meteorite, and his results are somewhat remarkable. The largest piece is of an unequal spheroidal shape, with a rounded surface; it is covered all over with a crust, probably caused by the incandescence and superficial fusion. In appearance the fracture is black, and almost basaltic looking, showing a globular structure and numerous small spheroidal grains. Here and there small metallic grains are to be seen, yellow in colour, like iron bisulphide, these and other metallic-looking grains showing much better when the surface is polished. Its specific gravity was 3.80. Treated with water, a very small quantity of chloride of sodium dissolved out, and M. Daubreée remarks that this is not the first time that this salt has been found in meteorites; and he brings forward evidence to show that it could not have been derived from the soil in which the meteorite was buried, but that it must have formed part of it when it fell. No traces of any salts of potash, nor of any sulphates or hyposulphates could be found. Dissolved in nitric acid, a silicate was found, which was proved to consist chiefly of magnesium and protoxide of iron, and there was an undissolved residue, part of which was colourless, the remainder dark black. By means of spectrum analysis, copper was thought to be recognised; but calcium, barium, and strontium were shown to be absent. No carbon was found; but, as usual, cobalt and nickel accompanied the iron. The following is the complete analysis:—


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