[meteorite-list] NPA 11-08-1872: Orvinio (Italy) Meteorite Article

From: MARK BOSTICK <thebigcollector_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sun Nov 7 15:40:03 2004
Message-ID: <BAY4-F16XvpFVjCRGry000020e2_at_hotmail.com>

Paper: Ohio Democrat
City: New Philadelphia, Ohio
Date: November 8, 1872
Page: 2


A Meteor as Large as the MOON - Account by Father Secchi, of Rome.
(From Correspondent of the London Morning Post.)

     The end of the world has been so frequently predicted without the
punctual realization of so awful a cataclysm that nowadays people usually
listen with the indifference of incredulity to even the best authenticated
announcements of the proximate annihilation of our habitable globe. Such was
the case in Rome on Saturday morning, the 31st ult., when the most
lugubrious prognostications were circulated in consequence of the appearance
in the eastern sky, a little before daybreak, of one of the most magnificent
meteors records of late by astronomical observers. It is true that these
predictions originated with the clericals and their partisans, with whom
natural phenomena are looked upon as supernatural signals of approaching
events of the utmost importance such as revolutions, war, the restoration of
the Pope's temporal power, of the ends of the world. The prolonged and
successive detonations which accompanied the rapid course and explosion of
the aerolith were certainly grand and terrifying, and moreover, with a clear
sky overhead would have been totally inexplicable had not the vivid light
and illuminated track of the aerolith shown that they were owing to the
presence of an unaccustomed visitor to our atmosphere. I heard what I
thought was the rumbling of distant thunder about a quarter-past five in the
morning, and as I was going into the country in the course of the day I was
rather disappointed at what appeared to be an early breaking up of the fine
weather. The exclamations of some matutinal spectators in the streets and at
neighboring windows soon roused me to a consciousness of what was going on;
for the concluding part of the magnificent spectacle still illuminated the
eastern sky over the setting moon, extending from southeast to northeast, in
the form of a sinuous luminous cloud, perfectly visible from my windows. I
have delayed reporting the appearance of this meteor until I could get the
account of it given by our great astronomical authority, Father Secchi, in a
letter published yesterday in the Osservatore Romano, for none of the new
professors have distinguished themselves by a scientific report of it in the
Liberal journals. I quote part of Father Secchi's letter, premising,
however, that in an excursion southwards, subsequent tot eh appearance of
the meteor, I verified the fact of it having been observed from much more
distant localities than those mentioned by the learned professor, as, for
instance, Ferentino and Frosinone, on the Naples line, about fifty miles by
road from Rome. Father Secchi gives the following characteristics of the
bolide as it was observed from Rome on the 31st of August at fifteen minutes
past five A. M.:
     "Small and reddish at the beginning it moved slowly forward from
south-southeast towards north-northeast, increasing in light and volume,
leaving a track like vapor of a dark color. When it arrived at a certain
point it flamed brilliantly, and became almost as large as the moon,
disappeared almost immediately afterward, leaving a long-shaped cloud, which
soon assumed a twisted form like an immense serpent. A few minutes
afterwards - that is not more than four, according to various calculations -
a violent detonation was heard followed by two other nearer and weaker. From
the accounts gathered in results that the time traversed by the bolide was
not in a vertical plain over Rome, but inclined towards the east. From the
time which clapsed between the conflagration and the detonation, calculation
it at about three minutes, its distance would be sixty chilometers. - The
detonation made a rumbling noise like a mine or the discharge of some
voluminous fiery mass, different from thunder or artillery, followed by a
rattle of minor discharges like musketry fire. We suspected the explosion of
a powder magazine, or something similar. - The same bolide was seen at
Velletri, Albano, Genanza, Grotto Ferrata, Zagarolo and Frascati, in which
places the noise of the detonation seems to have been mere intense than with
us, since the windows and doors of houses were shaken by it. In these places
the direction is also indicated as from south to northeast, which proves
that it passed oblique to the vertical. At Zagaroloo the phenomenon assumed
more imposing phases. Signor Secchi writes that at a quarter past five,
being in bed, he heard an explosion like that of a heavy cannon at a short
distance, which made the whole house tremble and caused a sussultory motion
in the bed. A sound like thunder followed the discharge, seeming to disperse
towards the north. * * * Eye-witnesses describe having seen a great globe of
fire come from the south with the rapidity of lightning, and, as soon as it
passed the town, obliquely to the north, explode with a report like thunder,
prolonged in the direction of Tivoli.
     From these and other reports, although hitherto incomplete, Father
Secchi inferred that the aerolith had passed vertically over Zagarolo,
exploding near that town at a height which would precipitate the fragments
in a shower of stones over the mountains of Sabina. Zagarolo is situated in
the Latin Valley, half way between Colonna on the Alban hills and Palestina
on the Sabine range. The Geological Professor, De Rossi, witnessed the
phenomenon from the lofty village of Rocca di Papa, towards the summit of
the Alban group of hills, and the following day he wrote a letter to Father
Seechi containing the observation he had made the information he had
collected on the subject. He mentions the appearance of the aerolith in the
southwest at twenty minutes past five A.M., as a lucid white globe passing
over Porto D'Anzio on the sea-coast, Vekketri ad Monie Cavo, where its
passage was accompanied with a noise like that of a rocket, leaving behind a
waving strope of white vapor. When apparently over the eastern extremity of
Hannibal's camp, on the summit of the Alban hills, towards Pocca Piera and
in sight of Palestrina, it exploded with a tremendous detonation, causing a
momentary vibration like a real earthquake, especially in Rocca di Papa.
Professor De Rossi states, however, that after this first detonation which
must have accompanied by the fall of many fragments of the earth, the
remaining mass changed its direction, moving towards Marino, Albano and the
sea - that is westward - but only to resume its original course, returning
over Grotto Ferrata and Frescati, to disappear in the valley between Tivolo
and Alban hills. Conjecting that the explosion took place over the eastern
extremity of the Alban group Professor De Rossi searched the environs for
fragments of the bolide, but unsuccessfully, although he affirms having
found several freshly made perforations in the meadows of Hannibal's camp,
which he could only explain by the supposition of small fragments of stone
having been forcibly driven in; but he confesses not have any such fragments
in the holes. Finally Signor De Rossi concludes that the successive
detonations of the aeroltih were caused by renewed attrition on its nucleus
as it penetrated the lower strata of the air, which likewise influenced its
direction, and that it was principally attracted by the volcanic group of
the Alban hills, of which Monte Cavo forms the summit, found which to its
descent the aerolith described a spiral movement, narrowing towards the
northern slope of the hills, and shooting downwards to the earth between
them and the hills of Tivoli. - With respect to the exact volume of this
erratic mass, the professor supposes it to have been enormous, because
although at such an elevation that it was seen to explode from so many
points extremely distance from each other, its apparent diameter was equal
to that of a man's head, whence he infers that it must have been at least
equal to the largest balloons used by modern aeronauts.
     The reports I have myself collected from eye-witnesses, both in Rome
and southward for fifty miles, do not confirm Professor De Rossi's
supposition of the spiral course taken by the aerolith, whose flight towards
the northeast is uniformly described as straight. I found the country folks
in the province of Frollnone greatly terrified by the celestial apparition,
and I dare say there were many peasants who acted like an ex-driver in the
service of a friend of mine residing at Ferentino. - Surprised on the road
to Alatri by the sudden appearance of the flaming aerolith, he thought the
end of the world was come indeed, and abandoned his team to hide himself,
all trembling, in a ditch. The peasants and indeed people in general, are
very early risers in this part of the world, and therefore events taking
place even before daybreak are sure to find enough people abroad to observe
     The following letter from Father Secchi purchased in the Osservatore
Remano of this day, shows that his surmises were correct, and announced to
the public the descent of the aerolith, of what remained of it, in the
Sabine Mountains, near Subiaco:
     We are enabled to give further notice of the bolide of the 31st of
August. - The worthy engineer, Signor A. Alvorex, telegraphs to us from
Subicao that the bolide fell in the territory of Affile, not far from
Subiaco, setting a cottage on fire. Search is being made for the fragments.
Professor Cocchi writes from Veroli that the meteor was seen there, and a
powerful detonation heard. Its direction was from southeast in northeast.
Signor Coletta, druggist in Piperno, and Signor Tommasi, engineer in Cort,
assume us that there also it was seen near the magnetic meridian. These
directions being placed upon a topographic map all conspire towards the
Sabine Mountains. We have received news that a fragment fell near the road
leading from Tivoli to Ceciliano. This locality and that of Affile are in
the region indicated in the above mentioned trajectories. The mass has
probably been dispersed in many distant places. I am sorry not to be able as
yet to publish all the letters I have received, but I propose making a
complete series of them.
(Signed) Father A SECCHI


This newspaper article refers to the Orvinio Meteorite. Six pieces of this
H6 meteorite, totaling 3.4kg., fell August 31, 1872 at 0515hrs in Lazio.

Clear Skies,
Mark Bostick



PDF copy of this article is available upon e-mail request.

The NPA in the subject line, stands for Newspaper Article. I have been doing
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Received on Sun 07 Nov 2004 03:39:42 PM PST

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