The Case of a Missing Meteorite

About 7 p.m., 16 June 1794, Siena, Italy. A vibrant town popular with English tourists. It has a population of nearly 30,000, and a university founded in 1240. Tourists sipping the local Chianti wine in Piazza del Campo, the town's large shell-shaped centre, notice a dark cloud spoiling a picture-perfect blue sky. As the cloud moves southeast they hear sounds of distant thunder.

A few kilometres away, villagers walking back to their houses in Cosona are bewildered as several stones hiss through the air and land at their feet. Soon afterwards a loud continuous sound, as if from artillery fire, fills the sky. A young woman named Lucrezia Scartelli is curious and picks up a stone the size of an olive, and immediately drops it as it burns her hand. She hears a thundering sound and sees another large stone falling. She runs away scared.

Later, another witness named Ferdinand Sguazzini tells other villagers that the stones came so fast that the big ones went right into the ground. As deep as my arms, he says, stretching his arms out. He then shows them a stone: it is the size of a tomato and dark black. He scratches it with his knife and his audience scream with surprise when they find it silvery white inside.

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