Man in India may be 1st in 2 centuries to have been killed by meteorite
Scientists are analyzing an object recovered from a college in southern India, the site of a blast over the weekend that left a bus driver dead. They’re trying to determine if it is a meteorite.
If tests show the object did come from a meteor, then it will represent the first known death caused by a meteorite in nearly two centuries.
The chief minister for Tamil Nadu state said there is no other explanation for the blast that rocked a college campus in the city of Chennai last week.
“A meteorite fell within the college premises,” Jayalalithaa Jayaram told Reuters.
The blast shattered windows, leaving at least three others injured. The 40-year-old bus driver, who was standing on a patch of grass near the school’s cafeteria at the time,”sustained serious injuries and died while on the way to the hospital,” said Jayaram.
Windows shattered due to Meteor impact at Naatraampalli, Vellore. Just like russian meteor impact . pic.twitter.com/5ioJdNBV1c
— Prashanth (@itisprashanth) February 7, 2016
Local authorities told The India Times that they believed the blast was due to explosives left behind following some construction work.
A district official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that, “when no evidence of explosive material was found, we moved to the theory that it might be a meteorite.”
Read more: Explaining meteors and meteorites
Witnesses said they heard a loud noise shortly before impact. The mystery object, which was originally described as black, pockmarked, and weighing approximately 11 kilograms, was located in a shallow crater about half a metre deep.
However, scientists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics contradicted those reports, after discovering a hard, jagged, dark blue object that is small enough to be held in a closed hand.
“The object that police have recovered from the site would have to undergo chemical analysis” to confirm its origin, said the dean of the institute, Prof. G.C. Anupama. She said that while it was rare for meteors to reach the ground before burning up in the atmosphere, it happens.
Piece of a meteorite found at a private engineering college in Vellore. One person was dead in the explosion. pic.twitter.com/TON5qzIw7N
— J Sam Daniel Stalin (@jsamdaniel) February 7, 2016
A team from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics is scheduled to take samples of the suspected meteorite Tuesday.
Guhan Baskar , the principal of the college, was working when he heard the blast.
“It was a sound like nothing I’ve ever heard before,” Baskar said. “There was no smell at all, no fire, nothing.”
Baskar recorded a video of the smoke trail left behind in the sky by the object.
WATCH: Smoke trail from suspected meteorite in India caught on camera
According to the scientific journal International Comet Quarterly, the last reported death caused by a meteorite was in 1825.
In 2013, Russians witnessed a bright flare and shock wave caused by a meteor, that left fragments scattered across Chelyabinsk, with the largest piece landing in a lake.
The meteor caused significant damage and injured more than a thousand people, but no fatalities were reported.
WATCH:Divers raise meteorite from lake in Chelyabinsk region
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