+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

Siberia and elsewhere, that it suffices to
make us adopt an opinion which is further
confirmed by numerous proofs.

His reasoning respecting the origin of
bolides reads almost like second sight. It
is known, he urges, that our planet is
composed of various elementsearthy, metallic,
and othersamongst which iron is one of
the most widely distributed. It is also
conjectured that the other heavenly bodies are
made of analogous materials, or even quite
identical, although mingled and probably
modified in very various ways. There
ought likewise to exist in space much solid
matter collected into small masses, without
belonging to any of the heavenly bodies
properly so called, and which, set in motion
by prqjective or attractive forces, continues
to advance until, arriving within the sphere
of the earth's (or any other heavenly body's)
influence, it falls upon it by the action of
gravity. The motion of those masses of
matter, extremely rapid in itself, being
accelerated by the earth's attraction, causes
such friction with the particles of the
atmosphere as to heat them to incandescence,
and make them throw off vapours
and gaseous fluids, ending with the
explosion of the mass.

It is a remarkable fact that aërolites
are principally composed of iron. But,
urges Chladni, if the above theory is correct,
we must believe that other substances
found in stones fallen from the skysuch
as sulphur, silex, magnesia, &c.—are not
peculiar to our globe, but are among the
elements which enter into the composition
of all the heavenly bodies. This opinion
coincides, as near as may be, with the
discoveries made by the spectral analysis of
light. Shooting stars are also referred by
Chladni to the same cause as meteoric fire-
balls or bolides, with which view
philosophers of the present day do not exactly
agree. What they do hold would occupy
too much space to be included in this

A lucky circumstance hastened the adoption
of Chladni's ideas. News of the
appearance of a magnificent meteor in the
neighbourhood of L'Aigle (department of
the Orme) having reached the Académie
des Sciences, and some stones fallen from
the sky on that occasion being submitted
to it for examination, one of its members,
the young Biot, was requested to proceed
to the spot and ascertain all particulars
respecting the meteor.

It appears that on Tuesday, 6 Floreal,
year XI. (26th of April, 1803), about one
in the afternoon, weather calm, there was
seen from Caen, Pont-Audemer, and the
environs of Alençon, Falaise, and Verneuil,
a very brilliant ball of fire, which darted
through the atmosphere with great rapidity.
A few instants afterwards they heard in
the town of L'Aigle and around it, throughout
an area having a radius of more than
thirty leagues, a violent explosion, which
lasted five or six minutes. At first there
were three or four shots like those of a
cannon, followed by what resembled a
discharge of musketry, after which there was
a frightful rolling like that of drums. The
air was calm and the sky serene, with the
exception of a few clouds.

The noise proceeded from a small cloud,
rectangular in shape, which appeared
motionless during the whole duration of the
phenomenon, except that the vapours
composing it bulged out for a moment at
different points, through the effects of the
successive explosions. Its elevation in the air
was very great; for the inhabitants of La
Vassolerie and Boislaville, hamlets situated
more than a league apart, beheld it
simultaneously over their heads. Throughout
the whole canton above which the cloud
was hovering, they heard hissing noises,
like those of a stone shot out by a sling,
and at the same time they beheld the fall
of a multitude of solid lumps, exactly
similar to the bodies known by the name
of meteoric stones.

If the meteor had burst at one single
instant, the stones would have been
scattered over a nearly circular area; but, in
consequence of the successive explosions,
they were strewed over a long strip of
ground answering to the meteor's course.
The largest found weighed eight kilos five
grammes (about seventeen pounds); the
smallest, which M. Biot brought away with
him, not more than seven or eight grammes.
The total number of stones which fell may
be estimated at two or three thousand.

After this inquiry, it was no longer
possible to entertain the slightest doubt
as to the reality of stones falling from
the atmosphere subsequent to the
explosion of meteors or bolides. M. Delaunay
has collected similar instances, wonderfully
agreeing in their details, ranging from
the year 1819 to 1868, inclusive; from
which he deduces the consequence, that
the fact of stones falling from the sky cannot
be questioned. They are not darted
by lightning, as the vulgar long believed,
but they proceed from meteors or bolides,
which suddenly appear in the atmosphere,