Esnandes, France: Caution Hot!

Back in the fall of 1837…

a  small meteorite fell in Esnandes, France. What makes this small especially interesting is that, and I quote, “A peasant, who observed the fall, said to have been burnt while collecting the stone.”

Burnt? 

Yet again, someone reported that a meteorite was hot when it landed. Esnandes was a mere 1500 grams so it hardly contained enough material remain so incredibly cold that it felt hot to the touch. Nor did it likely sit baking in the sun before being picked up. Esnandes, France is a little over 46 degrees north of the equator, and while the exact fall date is not known, fall is fall which means the sun was close to or lower than the autumn equinox.

The text from the Catalogue of Meteorites lists the distribution of Esnandes as extremely narrow. The piece featured in this Accretion Desk ranks third largest in the world at half the weight of second place and one fourth the weight of first place. However, a significant amount of mass is not accounted in the list and is probably represented in a collection somewhere, likely Paris.

Crust, beautiful crust!

Esnandes has wonderful crust for its age. Crust is critically important for documenting the authenticity of a historic meteorite. The matrix of Esnandes is very similar to many other chondrites so it would be easy to make a mistake identifying such rare material.

A 2003 article in Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences by P. Rochette, et. al. suggests that Esnandes should be reclassified as an L chondrite. Magnetic tests and microanalysis on Esnandes samples from the Natural History Museum in Paris were the key. Visually, it makes sense to me. Although I’ve seen H chondrites that look much like Esnandes, I have seen far more L chondrites that do.

I’ve seen it advertised that Esnandes might be a so-called Hammer stone meaning that it hit a man-made object upon its arrival to earth. Unfortunately there is no supporting evidence for such a claim. Oddly, however, it would seem that if the report that a peasant burned his/her and when picking up the stone has made it through 175 years of human activity, something would have been noted had it hit a building or whatever else people had back then. Backing up this logic is that there are plenty of other hammer stones of similar or older age, and their stories of collision seemed to transcend time with little effort.

Until next time….

 



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About the Author

Martin Horejsi
Dr. Martin Horejsi is a Professor of Instructional Technology and Science Education at The University of Montana. A long-time meteorite collector and writer, before publishing his column The Accretion Desk in The Meteorite Times, he contributed often and wrote the column From The Strewnfields in Meteorite Magazine. Horejsi is currently a monthly columnist in The Science Teacher, a journal by the National Science Teachers Association. Horejsi specializes in the collection and study of historic witnessed fall meteorites with the older, smaller, and rarer the better. Although his meteorite collection once numbered over a thousand pieces with near that many different locations, several large trades and sales have streamlined the collection to about 250 locations with all but 10 being important witnessed falls. Many of the significant specimens in Horejsi's collection are historic witnessed falls that once occupied prominence in the meteorite collections of Robert A. Haag, James Schwade, and Michael Farmer. Other important specimens were acquired through institutional trades including those from The Smithsonian Institution, Arizona State University, and other universities.
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