The first email I read while waiting for my luggage at the Charles De Gaulle airport on Oct 9th was titled “New Meteorite in Paris”. The story, about a new french meteorite that had crashed through the roof of a home in Draveil France (a Paris suburb) had just been published on the same day I landed in Paris. This was certainly a sign that our journey was ‘universe’ approved.
I had pitched the trip to my wife as two days of astro work in Greece and then fun time in Paris. How was I going to explain the need to go meteorite hunting, while we were visiting the most exciting city in the world? I struggled and ultimately decided the French would have to find the remaining pieces of the Draveil meteorite on their own, but while I was there I certainly wanted to have a look at what was already found.
By our second day in the city, fatigue had caught up with us and we decided to take it easy and just wonder around the city. In the back of my mind I wanted to ‘wonder’ into Alain Carion’s gallery — Dr. Carion is a world renowned Parisian meteorite collector and dealer. He has a shop in the center of Paris and he holds a piece of the newest meteorite fall. Visiting the Carion gallery was on my todo list for the trip anyway, so I figured we could explore the city while pursing this unofficial goal. I was still learning my way around and a little disoriented and we ended up walking away from Carion’s gallery instead of towards it.
As we were walking down the street, we observed an official military ceremony in process in front of an important looking building. It took us a few moments to learn this was the home of the French president and we were watching the changing of the guard. As we past by on the opposite side of the street, my wife looked into a shop window and saw a huge triceratops head. She said, ‘look at this’. To our surprise we had stumbled into Sotheby’s auction house and they just happened to be showing off a large lot of dinosaur fossils, minerals and meteorites (click link for gallery of items on auction block). Random luck, cosmic forces or the will of the universe had guided us to some of the finest meteorites in Paris!
On our last day we went to the Galerie Alain Carion. The shop is located in one of the nicest parts of the city, an island in the Seine just a stones throw from Notre Dame. The collection is literally first class with an amazing selection of meteorites, minerals and a few fossils too.
Alain is a well known and well respected meteorite scientist, collector, dealer and hunter. I have heard a lot about his work and I have one of his meteorite books. Alain also has a piece of the Draveil meteorite which he acquired from its original owner Mrs. Comette. I was really looking forward to visiting the shop and meeting Alain.
When we arrived at the store front I was not disappointed. A stunning collection of meteorites, minerals and fossils was on display in the main window. There were several meteorites I immediately recognized including a huge slice of the pallasite esquel, a few big hunks of carbonaceous chondrite Allende and several nicely sculpted pieces of sikhote alin shrapnel, one of which I recognized from Alain’s book.
Here’s a picture of some meteorites in the front window of the Galerie Alain Carion. The sikohte alin in the bottom right is no longer there…
When I looked in the far corner of the window I saw this picture. I later learned it is a hand painted original from one of Carion’s sons. Like the sikohte alin meteorite, the picture is no longer in the window.
Alain was kind enough to meet with us and pose for a picture.
He even showed us his fragment of the Draveil meteorite — the latest witnessed fall found on Earth and for all intensive purposes the first and only Parisian meteorite (not exactly, but close enough only 12 miles away).
It was our last night in Paris and of course the clouds started to clear up for the first time since we arrived.
I knew the almost full moon would be rising shortly after dusk. I wanted to recoup some of my earlier losses and make it home with an astrophoto or two. So we got dinner at a fine crepe place and then walked around taking pictures of the city, the moon and Jupiter.
Notre Dame at night, with the Moon and Jupiter over top.
The Moon, Jupiter and the Louvre.