With a loud bang, parts of a small meteorite hit a balcony in southern Italy. Only one floor tile was damaged, which broke on impact, as reported by Italian media. The celestial body had a vertical impact in the north of the city of Matera at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour, according to a statement from the Italian Network for Monitoring Meteorites (Prisma).
The meteorite was sighted on Valentine's Day as it streaked the skies over the southern regions of Puglia and Basilicata. Astronomers calculated its trajectory and quickly found that it would land near Matera in Basilicata. According to media reports, he weighed 400 to 500 grams.
A warning was issued to the public a day after the sighting. According to Prisma, it was brothers Gianfranco and Pino Losignore who found the meteorite parts on their parents' balcony. Those had previously told of a loud bang. According to Prisma, 70 grams of material were found in twelve larger pieces and dozens of the smallest fragments.
The brothers, who run a shop selling toner and other computer accessories in Matera, are hobby astronomers, according to the Ansa news agency. So they would have recognized immediately that it wasn't rubble that the wind might have blown onto their parents' balcony. "Had it not been for our curiosity, we might have just swept that off the balcony and nothing would have been saved," the brothers said, according to Ansa. Now the finds are to be analyzed scientifically.
Matera, a small town of around 60,000 inhabitants, was the European Capital of Culture in 2019. With its old town rising up a slope and the cave settlements - the Sassi - it attracted many tourists. Now a visitor came from space. Prisma reminded that meteorites are very old and have often roamed the universe for 4.5 billion years - since the birth of our solar system.