Did you know that in 1803 more than 3,000 meteorite fragments fell from the sky in L’Aigle, France? A meteorite is a solid object that falls from outer space and impacts a planet or moon’s surface. As they travel through the atmosphere, some meteorites form visible fireballs and are called shooting or falling stars. Jean-Baptiste Biot, a French scientist, was sent to study the phenomena in L’Aigle. His work helped to finally convince European scientists that the origin of meteorites was outer space. Before this, many scientists thought that meteorites had a terrestrial, or earthly source!
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Many scientists obtained the idea that meteorites had a terrestrial source from classical scholars such as Aristotle. In 1794, Ernst Florens Chladni published a booklet, “On the Origin of the Iron Masses Found by Pallas and Others Similar to it, and on Some Associated Natural Phenomena”, which presented the idea that meteorites came from outer space. His theory was not accepted and mocked.
Jean-Baptist Biot’s work started the science of meteoritics, or the serious study of meteors.
There are three general types of meteorites: stony meteorites made mostly of silicate materials, iron meteorites made from metallic iron-nickel, and stony-iron meteorites that have both rocky and metallic material.
Meteorites are not only an phenomena found on Earth. Scientists have also found meteorites on the Moon and Mars.
Fragments from the 1803 meteorite shower are stored in the Muséum d’histoire naturelle d’Angers.