A woman who claimed to have been struck by a meteor earlier this month might actually have been struck by a common terrestrial rock, experts say.
The unidentified victim was enjoying a coffee with a friend on the terrace of her home in Schirmeck, north-eastern France, when she “felt a blow to her ribs”.
It followed a slam into the ceiling above her, leading to the assumption that a space rock may have crashed into it before falling and hitting the woman.
At first he thought it was an animal or a bat, before noticing a golf ball-sized rock that looked like “a lump of cement” from a tile.
She discarded it on the basis of a color mismatch and instead took it to local geologist Dr. Thierry Rebmann for identification.
Disputed claim: A woman who said she was struck by a meteor earlier this month may actually have been struck by normal terrestrial rock, experts have claimed (file photo)
He said it contained a mixture of iron and silicon, which is typical of meteorites.
‘It does not correspond to a volcanic rock from the Val de Bruche sector. Based on this lady’s testimony, it is likely that we are looking at a meteorite, especially since the rock has become very hot,” added Dr. Rebmann.
But several experts have disputed this claim.
Paris Observatory astronomer Jeremie Vaubaillon said the images shared with a local newspaper “clearly show that this is not a meteorite.”
He told MailOnline it was “too many angles” to be from space, adding that meteorites “don’t have jagged, jagged spikes because the rock melts when it enters the atmosphere due to the super-hot plasma that surrounds it.”
Vaubaillon described this reaction as like melting an ice cube, where the angular pieces quickly disappear.
The rock also has a ‘bubbly’ and irregular surface, characteristics consistent with volcanic rock, where lava bubbles freeze as the molten material cools rapidly.
In addition to containing many holes and bubbles, the specimen also lacks the smooth surfaces meteorites typically have due to the heat they experience.
Not only that, but there is no thin black film or “melt crust” that is common in space rocks.
Vaubaillon, like other experts, is puzzled as to where the rock came from.
Some say it probably fell off a roof or was thrown from the road, perhaps by burglars checking to see if anyone was home.
In addition to containing many holes and bubbles, the specimen also lacks the smooth surfaces meteorites typically have due to the heat they experience. Not only that, but there is no thin black film or “melt crust” that is common in space rocks. This is a typical meteorite.
Geologist Barbara Gollain, from the Strasbourg Museum of Mineralogy, said it looked more like steel slag than space rock.
Slag is a by-product of smelting spent minerals and metals and can contain iron and silicon, like meteorites. It is used in the construction industry, in cement and to build roads.
That would support the theory that the rock was from the ceiling or the road, but certainly not from space.
Dr Richard Greenwood, a planetary and space sciences researcher at the Open University, told MailOnline it could even be a small stone that fell from the wheels of an aircraft.
The final stumbling block in the theory that the rock was from space is that it did not damage the ceiling the morning it supposedly hit.
When a meteor falls from the sky, it tends to crash to the surface at speeds of 186 mph, according to François Colas, an astronomer with the Fireball Interplanetary Observation and Recovery Network (FRIPON) sky-monitoring network.
That would have dealt quite a bit of damage to the ceiling.
The woman claimed she was struck by a meteorite while having coffee with a friend in Schirmeck, north-eastern France.
The only person to be killed by a space rock was a man in present-day Iraq in 1888. The image shows the likely path of this meteorite.
FRIPON also monitors the sky over France for flashes of light caused by meteors and none were detected in the area on July 6, the day the incident occurred.
‘Such an object reaches magnitude -15 [with the minus prefix indicating a particularly bright object over Earth]; does not go unnoticed. In this season, there are also many amateur astronomers who observe; would have reported such an event,’ Colas said French astronomy publication Ciel & Espace.
The woman and her friend were sitting on their patio when the recent incident occurred around 4 a.m. on July 6, she told the local newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace.
“I heard a big ‘boom’ coming from the ceiling next to us,” he said.
‘In the second that followed, I felt a blow to the ribs. I thought it was an animal, a bat.
‘We thought it was a piece of cement, the kind we put on ridge tiles, but it didn’t have the color.’
It’s unclear where the rock is now, but Dr. Rebmann previously suggested that scientists should study it further to confirm its exact origin.
According to NASA, Earth is bombarded with more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles every day, but most of it burns up before reaching the planet’s surface.
Golf ball-sized meteorites strike Earth every few years, but the frequency with which they impact populated areas is even less often.
This is particularly the case because the surface of our planet is about 71 percent ocean.
Rocks tend to be easier to spot when landing in a desert, because they contrast with the harsh landscape and are less likely to be covered with dirt or vegetation.
“It’s very rare, in our temperate environments, to find them,” Dr. Rebmann said.
They merge with other elements. Instead, in a desert environment, we can find them more easily.’
This is not the first time a person has been hit by a space rock.
The only person known to have been struck by a space rock was Alabama woman Ann Hodges, who was struck by a grapefruit-sized meteor in November 1954.
He crashed into the roof of his home in his sleep, hitting his upper thigh and hand, but survived the ordeal, suffering only bruises.
According to a 2020 study, the only recorded case of a meteor killing a human dates back more than 130 years.
At the time, the study authors found evidence of a meteorite that killed one man and paralyzed another after it fell “like rain” on the Iraqi village of Sulaymaniyah in August 1888.
The event was not discovered until 2020 because the documents describing it were written in an ancient Ottoman Turkish language that is difficult to translate.
The documents, written by local authorities and sent to the government, describe how “a strong, bright light was accompanied by smoke and traveled towards a village.”
The translation went on to say that the meteors fell over a period of about ten minutes “like rain”, killing one man and seriously injuring another.
Explained: The difference between an asteroid, a meteorite and other space rocks
A asteroid it is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or from the early solar system. Most lie between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.
TO kite it is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.
TO meteorite it’s what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.
This debris itself is known as meteoroid. Most are so small that they evaporate into the atmosphere.
If any of these meteoroids reach Earth, it is called meteorite.
Meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites typically originate from asteroids and comets.
For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere and forms a meteor shower.