Judith JorgeSEGUIRMadrid Updated: Save Send news by mail electrónicoTu name *

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it Was five in the afternoon of December 25, Christmas day, 1704, when a spectacular fireball crossed the sky and fell in the vicinity of Tarrasa causing a great noise. Known as the meteorite Barcelona , was able to be seen from the city of barcelona to Marseilles. The witnesses of the time, amazed and without any knowledge, interpreted the outburst as a divine sign . The event was well described in a score of historical documents that have come down to our days. However, the meteorite is considered lost.

Up to now, for three centuries after, a team from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the Natural Science Museum of Barcelona has managed to locate and identify two small fragments of the meteorite that had gone unnoticed within a curious collection of objects of the family Savior, a brilliant lineage of apothecaries catalans.

“Find a meteor 300 years later is incredible. I don’t know if there is a case like this,” admits Jordi Llorca, director of the Center for research in Science and Engineering Multiscale of the UPC and lead author of the study, published in the journal “Meteoritics and Planetary Science”. The researchers were advised of the existence of the rocks by the officers of the Botanical Institute of Barcelona, which currently houses the collection of thousands and thousands of books, plants and objects of the Savior. Earlier, his cabinet of curiosities was kept in the back room of the old family pharmacy in carrer Ample in Barcelona.

Replica Cabinet Salvador for an exhibition – J. M. LlobetUn message in a

“as soon as I saw I had no doubt, were meteorites,” says Llorca. But is that in addition to the rocks just lacked gritarlo. The two fragments of 50 and 35 grams, were stored in a glass jar with an envelope that says “meteor?”. Inside, a notation of incomplete and half erased that reads in Catalan: “Stone that fell out… (something unreadable), 1704”. The researchers compared the remains with the four meteorites are known to have fallen or have been found in Catalonia from 1851 to 1905, and concluded that this was different, it could not be confused with any other. Again, there was no doubt: they had given with the meteorite of Barcelona in 1704.

“it is Not known how the family got the shards, but his collection was very soon after impact ,” says Llorca. The reason is that the rocks are very fresh, still have the black crust. Composed mostly of silicate and small metal particles from a condrita ordinaria, a type of meteorite is very common. The team believed that it was part of one of the asteroids primitive that are crowded in a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. “You can have approximately 4,600 million years old, much older than any earth rock”, indicates the researcher. “Are the paving stones of the planets, authentic fossil of the solar system”, he adds. The meteorite is the seventh oldest preserved in the world and third in Europe.

A sign from God

When he fell, the people of that time did not even know that it was a meteorite. The ball of fire crossed the sky one day as iconic as the Christmas and during the War of Succession, which gave rise to numerous predictions and superstitions . The two sides of the war used it with objectives propaganda . The supporters of the Archduke Charles of Austria interpreted it as a sign from God to their favor, while supporters of Felipe V considered it a warning to the catalans by the usurpation of the house of Austria. “Everyone tried to get revenue,” concludes Llorca.

In reality, the fall of a meteorite has no more meaning than the scientist, and does not occur more in one era than in another, in one place than in another. “You could spend any place in the world and at any time, tomorrow or right now”, explains the scientist. In recent years, have only been seen to fall and recovered two meteorites in Spain: Villalbeto de la Peña (Palencia) in 2004 and Puerto Lápice (Ciudad Real) in 2007. But find one, that there has been witnesses, three centuries ago, is certainly something extraordinary.