Remembering the meteorite that ripped through Uptown home

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 11:26 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 22 at 11:10 AM

Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: ssatchfield@wwltv.com | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS -- "Some strange thing fell through my house, can I bring it over to you and show you?"

It’s a question Tulane Earth Sciences Professor Steve Nelson will never forget.

The inquiry came in September 2003, during a phone call from Uptown New Orleans resident Roy Fausset.

Fausset arrived at his home on Joseph Street one day, and stumbled across extensive, baffling damage inside.

"It was just this path from the roof, through the second floor, through the first floor and the first floor and then a big hole in the floor,” said Nelson, as he described what he saw when he showed up to investigate.

Scattered across the crawlspace underneath the home were large fragments of rock that Nelson and other scientists determined were part of a meteorite.

About the size of a bowling ball and weighing 45 pounds, the cosmic rock ripped through the house, and then broke into pieces when it hit the slab underneath.

"The first thing we did is we put it on an x-ray frachtometer and found some minerals that don't commonly occur in Earth rocks," Nelson said.

The NASA website describes the New Orleans meteorite as a stony chondrite.

Last week, numerous cameras captured incredible images of a meteorite streaking across the sky in Russia. The incident caused a huge blast that left hundreds of people injured, and millions of dollars in damage to buildings.

The Russian meteorite event stirred memories for neighbors on Joseph Street.

Thursday, Phyllis Hugg showed us the empty lot where the Fausset’s home once stood. The home suffered flood damage during Hurricane Katrina and has since been torn down.

Hugg said the most common reaction at the time -- was disbelief.

"We were wondering if something had fallen from a plane," she said. "You don't think you're ever going to hear about something like that, so it was pretty amazing."

"It's so rare for these things to hit in populated areas that it became quite a big deal," Nelson said.

Meteorite hunters from all over flocked to the neighborhood almost immediately, trying to make deals with the stunned homeowner.

Nelson said he tried to persuade Fausset to keep the valuable in local hands.

"I got calls from universities all over the state telling me, do whatever you can to keep (Fausset) from selling (the meteorite) out of the state, and so my theme was, well Louisiana is losing so much land, when a piece of rock comes and adds to the land, we should definitely keep it here," Nelson joked.

Nelson said Fausset donated a piece of the rock to Tulane, and sold some of it to a local rarities collector.

Now, 10 years later, the incident still conjures feelings of wonder for those involved with it.

“For me, it was very fascinating,” Nelson said.

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