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Villalbeto de la Peña (Spain, 2004 – 2012)

January 4th, 2004 at 5.47p.m., thousands of Spanish people observed a fireball crossing the sky before the sunset.

The following day, « El Mundo » published a long article specifying that the bolide had travelled from north-west to the east and that many fragments had fallen everywhere, causing departures of fire… The map showed the areas of the impacts. The same day, a hundred policemen and a military helicopter searched through all Spain.

I was at home, having dinner, when the french TV News showed a movie of the fireball flying over the spanish town of Leon. An amateur movie maker filmed the Three Kings procession in the streets of Leon and, suddenly, the meteor crossed the street, far behind several buildings and under the moon. According to the position of the moon at that time, Victor Ruiz, an amateur astronomer concluded that the meteorite moved from south-west to the north-east.

On january 21st, a spanish journalist, Abel Tarilonte, showed two chondrites of 21.76 and 42 grams to the Spanish National Museum of Science. He got them from a man who discovered them before january 10th at Recueva de la Peña, near Villalbeto de la Peña.

Spanish teams started to search. From january to march 2004, about 15 meteorites were found, despite of the snow and bad weather

A french man, impassioned in ufology, worked hard on the video and contacted me. He made awfully hard calculations to draw a nearly perfect trajectory and points of impact.

With this calculations, me and my team decided to go to Spain. We wanted to search to the north of the area, behind mountains wich cross the strewnfield, at the end of the theoretical trajectory. As we feard it, snow covered the area. On the second day, March 10, 2004, we went back to a place that we had seen while driving the car and which seemed easy to hunt into. We walked during the entire day and started to despair with again nothing to find. By chance or divine gift, while going back to our car, Pierre-Marie discovered at the end of the day the first meteorite that we hoped so much for. And what a find ! It was on the ground of a muddy path and, if walking a few meters away, we would have missed it. Our discovery was accompanied by cries of joy which may have been heard at a good distance. On the road back to the hotel, we did a stop in a supermarket to weigh the meteorite. It weighed 1367.60 grams – that’s a lucky find. During the next three days of hunting, we walked during many hours, often in the sun, but also during one complete day under rain and hail. We didn’t find anything more.

We did five other trips to the Villalbeto area and discovered two meteorites, one of 39 grams in april 2004 and one of 145 grams in june 2006, in the southern part of the strewnfield.

In april 2004, Museum of National History of Paris classified the meteorite and confirmed it was a L6 chondrite.

About 50 stones were found for a total mass of more than 5.5 kilograms.

The Villalbeto de la Peña meteorite fall has to be considered as one of the most documented ever (thousands of press articles, pictures of the bolide and videos, trajectory and orbit calculation).

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