Woman Woken by Loud Noise Finds Meteorite in Her Garden

A meteor that was recently seen soaring brightly across the night sky has been found after crash landing in a woman's garden.

The fireball, also known as a bolide, was spotted as it fell to Earth by hundreds of locals across France between the night of September 9 and 10, and was caught on several cameras, according to Fireball Recovery and InterPlanetary Observation Network (FRIPON)/Vigie-Ciel, a French citizen science project.

As FRIPON/Vigie-Ciel was in the process of estimating where the meteor landed, they were contacted by a woman from the Communauté de Communes Sauldre et Sologne in central France, who thought that the meteor had landed in her garden, news outlet actu.fr reported on Wednesday. The woman added that she had been awoken by a loud noise in the night and found chunks of rock in her yard the following morning.

The team set off to investigate the claim, and found that the meteor had indeed landed in her garden in three fragments, weighing around 1.5 pounds in total.

meteor france
The meteor fireball spotted on a FRIPON camera at the Pôle des Etoiles (left), and an assembly of the fragments of the meteorite found in the woman's garden. FRIPON/Vigie-Ciel

"Immediately, we set off. And when we got there, we were immediately sure," Sylvain Bouley, president of the Astronomical Society of France (SAF), told actu.fr.

Bouley added: "We had a beautiful fusion crust [of rock melted by entry into the atmosphere], the interior was very clear, there were shiny gravels inside which betrayed the presence of metal... All the characteristics of a meteorite."

Meteors are chunks of rocks and ice that fall into the Earth's atmosphere, heating up to immense temperatures as they travel toward the ground at high speeds.

The French meteorite—as meteors are known once they've hit the ground—was estimated by Bouley to have been traveling at several hundred miles per hour as it collided with the Earth.

meteor chunks
The different fragments of the meteorite, and the reassembled meteor (bottom right). FRIPON/Vigie-Ciel

"Luckily she wasn't underneath," he said. "There was no crater, but it broke the table."

A meteor appears as a bright fireball in the sky if it's larger than average, creating a bright flash of light as it falls through the atmosphere. Most of the meteor is vaporized during its descent, with only around 5 percent of the original object reaching the ground, according to The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"As it comes into Earth's atmosphere at high speed (above 12 kilometers [7.5 miles] per second), it pushes the air in front of it, causing that air to become superheated (kind of like a shockwave), which in turn causes the surface of the rock to 'ablate'. Basically, the very surface layer gets superheated, and vaporized," Jonti Horner, an astrophysics professor at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, previously told Newsweek. "As the thing continues to push through the atmosphere, it gets whittled away from the outside in by this ablation process—until friction with the atmosphere slows it to subsonic speeds."

Strangely, a meteor is still cold once it reaches the ground.

french meteor team
The FRIPON/Vigie-Ciel holding a chunk of the meteor. From left to right: François Colas (responsible for the FRIPON project, OBSPM), Philippe Cavier and Charbal Kanzandjian (respectively facilitator and manager at Pôle des Etoiles – Nançay), Sylvain Bouley (planetologist, FRIPON/Vigie-Ciel team, Paris Saclay University). FRIPON/Vigie-Ciel

"A meteorite like that coming through the atmosphere is a little bit like what you get when you order some deep-fried ice-cream. You have a lump of rock or metal that is moving through space and has been in space for billions of years. So it will be chilled through to its very center—nice and cold," Horner said. "You essentially have a rock with a very thin super-heated layer (like the skin of an apple), which then takes tens of seconds or a few minutes to fall the rest of the way to Earth. The interior will still be bitterly cold—but that fall will be plenty of time for the surface to cool off."

This means that a falling meteor is unlikely to cause a fire in a house or garden, despite its scorching-hot descent.

The meteorite chunks in the woman's garden have now been taken to the National Museum of Natural History in France for analysis.

Newsweek has reached out to FRIPON/Vigie-Ciel via email for comment.

Do you have a science story to share with Newsweek? Do you have a question about meteors? Let us know via science@newsweek.com

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts