A French Meteorite Takes Manhattan

Browsing through the catalogue of online exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, you can find a number of fascinating areas to explore. Tucked into the Hall of Meteorites? Pieces of extra-terrestrial objects that initially fell to the Earth in 15th century France.

The Ensisheim meteor was discovered in 1492 by a young boy in Alsace, France. Thought to be a message of good luck from God, the meteor was broken into pieces by those eager for a piece of the divine and can now be seen in museum exhibits all over the world.

Despite this instance of the earliest recorded meteorite, scientists and officials disagreed for centuries on whether meteorites truly originated from outer space, rather than some Earthly explanation. It wasn’t until a meteor shower in 1803 that the debate was considered definitively settled, thanks to a celestial event in a small French town.

In 1803, a meteor shower sent stones plummeting to the ground all over L’aigle, Normandy, proving to French scientists for the first time that meteors do indeed come to Earth from outer space. It was after the Normandy event settled the matter that museums began including pieces of meteors in their exhibits.

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