A rare type of meteorite, only the sixth ever to fall on Belgian soil, has been given a new permanent home in the Museum for Natural Sciences in Brussels – 47 years after it plummeted out of the sky. The so-called Tintigny meteorite, named after the village in Luxembourg province where it landed, is an example of an achondrite meteorite, which make up only 8% of all known meteorites. About 86% are chondrite, named for the particles they contain, which date back 4.5 billion years, sometimes contain organic material and come from asteroids which never came together to former larger bodies.
The ceremony welcoming the Tintigny meteorite to the museum, where the other five are already housed, together with meteorites found by Belgian researchers in Antarctica, was attended by the family of the late Eudore Schmitz, who witnessed the rock’s fall.
His son Jean-Paul, aged 11 at the time, described the event: “As he did every morning, my father got up early to take care of his cattle. He was collecting bales of hay to put them in the hay loft above the animals, when he heard a dull thud, and realised something had fallen into the hayloft. He looked and saw a black stone on the ground. He picked it up and put it inside his cap, because it was hot.”
The meteorite had fallen from space through the roof of Schmitz’s barn. It had travelled from the Vesta family of asteroids, a belt found between Mars and Jupiter. Unlike most meteorites, it had survived its entry into earth’s atmosphere, at which point most space debris burns up, to be seen by humans as shooting stars.
Eudore recognised that he was in possession of something important, and charged his son to take it into school to show his teacher, Albert Rossignon, who went on to keep the object for almost half a century. Much later, at the age of 72, he contacted a geologist who identified the meteorite and contacted the museum. With the Schmitz family’s permission, it was then added to the museum’s collection, and is now on show in the Minerals Hall.