Imagine calling your car’s insurance company to declare potential meteorite damage. It’s unlikely to happen, but that’s exactly the phone call that the owner of a Renault Clio Campus in Strasbourg, France, had to make after finding a giant hole in the little hatchback’s roof panel.
The incident took place on November 20, 2023, according to French newspaper Le Figaro, and the impact left a roughly 20-inch hole in the Clio’s roof. What happened wasn’t initially clear: Firefighters were dispatched to the scene to investigate “a smoking car.” They quickly ruled out a fire and vandalism and after a great deal of head scratching decided the hole was probably caused by an “astronomical body.”
It’s not just the roof panel that was damaged. Whatever caused the hole was traveling fast enough to also go through the hatchback’s floor and fuel tank. Radioactivity tests came back negative, luckily, but part of what’s stumping investigators is that the object wasn’t in the car.
“Either it’s so small that we can’t find it, or the impact was so strong that the object disintegrated and turned to dust,” Matthieu Colobert, the captain of the firefighting team dispatched to the scene, told Le Figaro. There may be one promising lead: A representative for the local police department told the publication that his team found a “chestnut-sized rock that’s light and that looks like burnt wood” near the car.
The rock was sent to a lab in Paris, where researchers will try to determine whether it punctured the Clio and, crucially, whether it came from space. While this might initially sound far-fetched, the officer pointed out that “even a marble traveling very quickly can cause damage.”
As you’d expect, the news spurred a diverse selection of reactions on various social media platforms. Some users claim to have seen or heard the object traveling through the sky, while one guessed that someone accidentally dropped a Nokia 3310 from a nearby balcony.
Meteorite strikes thankfully aren’t common but they’re not unheard of. One of the most famous incidents happened in 1992, when a 27-pound, football-shaped rock hit a 1980 Chevrolet Malibu at about 164 mph in New York. The owner bought the car for $400 and sold it for $25,000 shortly after the impact, and she later sold the meteorite for $50,000. The sedan has been displayed in several museums since.
There’s no word yet on whether the Clio Campus (a model lurking at the bottom of its depreciation curve) will skyrocket in value as well.
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