Indian authorities are claiming that a man died as the result of a blast caused by a meteorite, but for one scientist, it seems rather unlikely.
“The chances are very, very low, I think,” said Peter Brown, professor at Western University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. He knows meteors: the Canada Research Chair leads the Meteor Physics Group at the university in southwestern Ontario.
It’s all about physics. Brown explains that the one-metre crater left behind is too small. In order for a solid meteorite to reach the ground and leave an impact crater, you’d need something that would have to be roughly one metre as it entered our atmosphere. Anything smaller is slowed down by our atmosphere and wouldn’t leave a crater of any size (meteorites are bits of space debris that reach the ground. Meteors, on the other hand, are debris that enter our atmosphere but never reach Earth).
“As well, there was no fireball or bolide, seen,” Brown continued. “And the description of the rock doesn’t sound like a meteorite.”
After claiming that it was a result of a meteorite, authorities now claim that they are examining a small, blue object, and that clearly wouldn’t be a meteorite which are rocky or comprised of iron.
Statistically, Brown said, it’s expected that someone will be hit by a meteorite once every 10 years. That’s right: it happens.
In 1954, a woman in Alabama was lying on her couch when a meteorite blew through her house, bounced off a radio and then hit her hip. She wasn’t killed, but it did injure her.
Then in 1992, a Ugandan boy was struck by a four-gram meteorite after a shower of debris rained down in the region. Fortunately for him, before hitting him on the head, it was slowed down as it passed through a banana tree.
As for claims that it would be the first person to be killed in almost 200 years, Brown said that there has been no solid documentation of someone ever having been killed.
“There’s been no definitive, historical, validated record of someone having been killed by a meteorite fall,” he said. “Just stories.
“It’s more likely an accident or incident that people are ascribing to a meteorite fall.”