Science & Technology

A small artifact sent to the forensics for identification

Yellow in Strasbourg, a car hit by a meteorite?

Firefighters and police suspect an object falling from space. Expert skepticism


A big bang and then smoke rising from a car parked in the Stockfeld district on the southern outskirts of Strasbourg. When they arrived at the scene, the firefighters were puzzled: what could have caused the almost half-meter-diameter gash on the roof of the car before piercing the tank and finally the bodywork?

The first response opened up a scenario from a science fiction movie: "Following the team's reconnaissance, we suspect the fall of a star," the Departmental Service of the Lower Rhine Fire and Rescue Service wrote in its report after the intervention.

At first, nothing that could explain the hole was found: "Either the object was so small that we couldn't find it, or the impact was such that the object disintegrated," fire brigade captain Matthieu Colobert told AFP.

Then a small artifact caught the attention of firefighters. A small piece of gravel found at the scene has been handed over to police for further investigation and will be sent to Paris for forensic evaluation. It is an "object the size of a hazelnut, which looks like burnt wood, very light," a police spokesman told AFP.

A team of specialists called in to assess radioactivity ruled out any kind of risk.

What makes the expert skeptical is above all the size of the find: "If it had been a meteorite, it would have been found on the spot. Given the size of the hole in the roof, it could not have been the small element found," explains François Colas, a researcher at the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research).