April 5, 1804: High Possil gets a bit heavier. High Possil is on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland and on this Thursday morning, a meteorite was observed falling into the quarry near the town. It is one of only four to have been found in Scotland, with the others being the Perth meteorite of 1830, the Strathmore meteorite of 1917, and the nearly 2,000 fragments found in a field near Fife which were discovered in 1998, but due to weathering are considered to be an older fall. The fiery ball was tracked through the night sky and the stony, L6 meteorite was soon found in the quarry. It along with a couple other recently witnessed strikes are said to have spurred the beginning of modern meteorite science.
In 1795, the Wold Cottage strike in Yorkshire, England sparked interest. It fell on December 13 and struck ground at 3 PM, creating a crater about one yard across. The chondrite, L6 meteorite was embedded in the underlying chalk rock about seven inches after having passed through about a foot of topsoil. Several people were witnesses and they claimed a dark object fell from the sky. When it was found, it was warm and smoking. Many reported an explosive sound as it fell. The new addition fell on property owned by Major Edward Topham, a well-known public figure, ex-soldier, playwright, and newspaper owner. He publicized his find and exhibited the rock in Piccadilly in London. The stone weighed about 56 pounds when discovered. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1835.
In 1803, an early afternoon meteorite shower dropped more than 3,000 fragments on the town of L’Aigle in Normandy, France. The French Academy of Sciences sent Jean-Baptiste Biot to study the event. He found two types of evidence to support extraterrestrial origin. The physical evidence of so many pieces of chondrite appearing suddenly in the same region and the eyewitness reports of many who saw a “rain of stones thrown by the meteor” helped secure his findings. The total mass of the L6 meteorite was 81 pounds. His paper describing how he came to understand their origin as off Earth was in direct conflict with Aristotle’s belief and led to some controversy. The rock now is held at the Muséum d’histoire naturelle d’Angers, a French natural history museum.
Scotland has had far fewer meteorite strikes than would be natural by chance. There are at least 18 falls known for England and Wales as opposed to four for Scotland. This may not be due to fewer strikes but to the population density of Scotland. With so few people, unseen falls would be far more likely and as the meteorite struck ground, it would soon be lost among the mountains, bogs, lochs, and forests that make up Scotland. The High Possil meteorite has been studied and by doing so only franments remain. The Hunterian Specimen, GLAHM M172 is the largest piece remaining and it weights just 5.3 ounces. It is extraterrestrial in origin, but many of the minerals it contains are also found on Earth.
I entered literary life as a meteor, and I shall leave it like a thunderbolt. – Guy de Maupassant
Better was it to go unknown and leave behind you an arch, then to burn like a meteor and leave no dust. – Virginia Woolf
Men of genius are often dull and inert in society, as a blazing meteor when it descends to earth, is only a stone. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Astronomy is perhaps the science whose discoveries owe least to chance, in which human understanding appears in its whole magnitude, and through which man can best learn how small he is. – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Also on this day: Joseph Lister – In 1827, Joseph Lister was born.
Salt March – In 1930, Gandhi reached the sea and gathered salt.
Wedding Bells – In 1614, John Rolfe married Pocahontas.
Big Heads – In 1722, Easter Island was discovered by Europeans.
Chamber of Commerce – In 1768, the first Chamber was formed.
* “NWA869Meteorite” by H. Raab (User:Vesta) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NWA869Meteorite.jpg#/media/File:NWA869Meteorite.jpg