Comette family home damaged by egg-sized meteorite
Meteorite believed to be more than 4bn years old smashes through roof of home on outskirts of Paris
Kim Willsher in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 October 2011 15.32 BST
When your name is Comette you may get used to jokes about rockets and space and planets. But French schoolboy Hugo Comette, 11, had the last laugh when of all the places, in all the countries on Earth, a piece of rock from outer space landed on his home.
An egg-sized meteorite believed to be 4.57bn years old smashed through the roof of the Comette family home on the outskirts of Paris some time over the summer when everyone was away on holiday.
And there the rock, blackened by its journey through Earth’s atmosphere stayed, buried in the roof insulation, until Hugo’s mother, civil servant Martine Comette, 32, noticed the roof was leaking and called out someone to fix it.
The roofer took one look at the broken tile and told the Comettes that whatever had smashed their roof tile must have come from the sky. “It would have had to be superman to break a tile in this way,” he said. It was only then that the meteorite, weighing 88g (3.5oz), was discovered.
Curious to know exactly what it was, Mrs Comette called out scientist Alain Carion, a mineral expert, who declared it an “exceptional” discovery.
“It’s extremely rare. We have had only 50 or so meteorite falls in France over four centuries,” Carion told journalists. “We have never found anything like it within an 80km radius of Paris before.”
He said the Comettes’ meteorite was a piece of chondrite that had come from the belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Most meteorites recovered on Earth are chondrites. They were formed when dust and small grains present in the early solar system created primitive asteroids. Chondrite meteors include dust believed to predate the formation of our solar system and to have come from elsewhere in the galaxy.
Although they have been told some meteorites sell for up to €1,000 (£860) a gramme, the Comettes say selling theirs is out of the question. “A piece of the history of space of which we know nothing, but which is fascinating, has fallen on us,” Mrs Comette, an accountant at the French ministry of finance, told Le Parisien newspaper. “It’s like a fairytale, and less likely than winning the lottery, we’re told.”
Not that the lump of rare chondrite Hugo Comette has been proudly showing off at school has convinced everyone. “I took it to school in a piece of kitchen roll in my satchel, but one friend said he only half believed me when I told him what it was,” Hugo said. “He thought it looked like a piece of concrete.”