The Civil Guard recovers the Reliegos meteorite for the National Museum of Natural Sciences

On the Day of the Holy Innocents in 1947, the residents of Religious in Leon, they woke up with a huge roar. They thought a plane had crashed, but it was a meteorite. they delivered to National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN) to be studied and exposed.

There it remained until more than five decades ago one of the pieces disappeared. Today he returned to his window. The meteorite, recovered by Civil Guard agents belonging to the Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) of Três Cantos (Madrid), was returned this Wednesday to the director of the MNCN, Rafael Zardoya.

the general Jose Antonio Berrocal Anaya gives Civil Guard made the delivery highlighting that protect and conserve heritage from Spain is “one of the most rewarding tasks” of the body. For his part, Zardoya thanked “this good birthday present” at 250th anniversary of the Museum which is celebrated this year.

The meteorite was guarded by an investigator from the National Museum of Natural Sciences, who could have committed a crime of embezzlement 60 years ago when it disappeared

The police intervention began at the initiative of the MNCN, after the curator of the Geology collection, Aurelio Nieto, discovered that the rock – labeled a museum collection – had been put up for sale on an Internet auction portal ( The bidding ended on October 27th and the starting price was €27,500.

Nieto’s warning opened a police operation that brought investigators to the Gipuzkoan town of hernani, where the Civil Guard managed to recover the fragment.

General José Antonio Berrocal Anaya from the Civil Guard and MNCN director Rafael Zardoya during the delivery of the recovered piece. / MNCN

The investigation, however, is still open, since at the time of its disappearance, more than 50 years ago, the meteorite was guarded by the MNCN researcher. Laborde Welinde, who could have committed a crime of misappropriation, explained the head of the SEPRONA Civil Guard, captain holy landmarks.

In recent years, online sales have grown “exponentially”, some auctions may offer objects of scientific interest, weapons, protected animals or looted heritage, among other things, so “you always have to know first” and “for security and transparency , avoid operations that leave no traces or that request money in advance”, warned Santos.

In museums in Madrid, Washington and New York

For curator Aurelio Nieto, this meteorite is a unique piece, but “unfortunately, sometimes, these heritage objects are not highly valued”. When this extraterrestrial rock was collected in 1947, it was cut into several pieces for study: some were sent to the MNCN and others to the natural history museums of Washington and New York.

The car, listed as a chondrite L (non-metallic), is made of chondrites or spheres of materials and its study “provides important keys to understanding the origin of the solar system and planets, the composition of the Earth’s core and the origin of life,” said Nieto.

For Javier Garcia, geologist and research professor at CSIC, the bizarre story of the Reliegos meteorite highlights the cool vacuum for racing cars, which are outside the protection of Spanish law.

“O Natural Heritage Act 1985 protects archaeological and paleontological objects in Spain “and establishes that the pieces found belong to the councils of the autonomous communities, but by that law” meteorites are stones of the countryside “, he lamented.

The bizarre story of the Reliegos meteorite highlights the legal vacuum of the fireballs, which are outside the protection of Spanish law, says a geologist at the museum.

This lack of legislation creates huge problems for scientists who are forced to find and collect meteorites before professional locators do, or wait for the person who finds them to decide to donate them to the state.

For this scientist, the most efficient would be to write a specific rule that protects meteorites or include them in the Heritage Act of 1985 because some of these “field stones” are of high scientific value, “which tell us what is at the center of the Earth, what the Earth’s mantle looks like or give us information about things. o that’s out there.”

“At the very least, these jewels of the universe should be in a museum”, he concludes. For now, this “lost” fragment has returned to where it should never have disappeared. As of today, it is part of the MNCN’s permanent exhibition along with two other fragments of the original meteorite.

The three meteorite fragments displayed in the museum. / MNCN

Source: EFE / MNCN

Rights: Creative Commons.


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