Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea Gohd’


Ann Hodges (center) poses with her meteorite, underneath the point where it crashed through her house, with Sylacauga, Alabama mayor Ed Howard (left) and the town’s police chief W.D. Ashcraft. Hodges was struck by the meteorite while on her couch on Nov. 30, 1954. She donated it to the University of Alabama’s Museum of Natural History in 1956.

By Chelsea Gohd

Sixty-five years ago, a few days after Thanksgiving, Ann Hodges was snuggled up on the sofa in her Alabama home when a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite crashed through the ceiling and struck the left side of her body. Not the best interruption to the holiday season.

The cosmic event, which took place on Nov. 30, 1954, was the first known reported instance of a human being struck by a meteorite and suffering an injury. The softball-size space rock, weighing about 8.5 lbs. (3.8 kilograms), burst through the roof of Hodges’ house in Sylacauga at 2:46 p.m. local time, bouncing off a large radio console before striking her and leaving a large, dark bruise.

The meteorite that struck Hodges, who was 31 at the time, turned out to be one-half of a larger rock that split in two as it fell toward Earth. The piece that didn’t hit Hodges landed a few miles away and is now in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In 2017, a 10.3-gram piece of the space rock that hit Hodges sold at auction for $7,500.

Before it ended up leaving a serious welt on Hodges’ side, people across eastern Alabama say they saw a bright light in the sky. Reports poured in of a reddish light, and some observers even described a fireball that trailed smoke and left an arc of light in the afternoon sky. After Hodges was struck and the meteorite landed, she and her mother, who was home at the time, tried to figure out what had happened.

Dust filled the house after the crash, but as it settled and they spotted the rock and the enormous bruise on Hodges, the two women called the police and fire department.

Now, as a local geologist was called to the scene to verify what the object was, word quickly spread about what happened. However, the event occurred in 1954, and not everyone was convinced that this strange rock was a meteorite. Some thought it could’ve been debris from a plane crash, and some thought it could have even come from what was then the Soviet Union.

Still, despite a few skeptics, people from all over flocked to Hodges’ home to see the woman hit by a space rock, a crowd that Hodges’ husband found as he returned from work that night. “We had a little excitement around here today,” Ann Hodges told the Associated Press. “I haven’t been able to sleep since I was hit,” she said. With all of this commotion around her, Hodges was soon hospitalized, though, despite the massive mark on her side, was not too seriously injured.

“Think of how many people have lived throughout human history,” Michael Reynolds, who wrote the book “Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors and Meteorites,” said to National Geographic. “You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time.”

Shockingly, Hodges is not the only person to have been hit by a meteorite, but it is still exceptionally rare.

In 2009, a 14-year-old German boy, Gerrit Blank, was hit in the hand by a pea-size meteorite. While he wasn’t seriously injured, the rock did leave a scar and gave the boy quite a fright. “When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road,” said Blank.

https://www.space.com/meteorite-hit-alabama-woman-65-years-ago.html?utm_source=notification


A NASA artist visualized what Earth would look like if it entered the “snowball state” predicted by new research from the University of Washington

By Chelsea Gohd

Earth-like planets with severe tilts and orbits could enter abrupt “snowball states,” in which entire oceans freeze and surface life cannot survive, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have found a new reason why, just because a planet is located in a “habitable zone” — meaning it’s close enough to its host star to sustain liquid water — it isn’t necessarily habitable. The team found that the axial tilt and orbital dynamics of planets in the habitable zone around “G dwarf” stars like our own sun can lead to “snowball states,” which are essentially extreme ice ages.

This new research looked at how a planet’s obliquity, or the angle at which a planet’s rotation axis tilts, and its orbital eccentricity, a parameter that determines the amount that an orbit deviates from a perfect circle, could affect that planet’s potential to be habitable.

Previous research suggested that planets in a habitable zone with a sun-like star that had a severe axial tilt or tilting orbit would be warmer, according to the statement. The team’s research found that the opposite holds true, which was quite a shock, they said.”We found that planets in the habitable zone could abruptly enter ‘snowball’ states if the eccentricity or the semi-major axis variations — changes in the distance between a planet and star over an orbit — were large or if the planet’s obliquity increased beyond 35 degrees,” Russell Deitrick, lead author of the new work and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bern who completed this research at UW, said in a statement.

Luckily, Earth’s axial tilt varies ever so slightly, leaving Earth “a relatively calm planet, climate-wise,” co-author Rory Barnes, an astronomer at UW, said in the statement. But, as it pertains to exoplanets, Deitrick “has essentially shown that ice ages on exoplanets can be much more severe than on Earth, that orbital dynamics can be a major driver of habitability and that the habitable zone is insufficient to characterize a planet’s habitability,” Barnes said.

A planet’s position in the habitable zone is typically a major factor in considering whether it may be habitable. However, this new research shows that even if a planet seems Earth-like and is orbiting at the right distance from its star, if “its orbit and obliquity oscillate like crazy, another planet might be better for follow-up with telescopes of the future,” Deitrick said.

With this research in mind, orbital dynamics should be considered an important part of determining a planet’s habitability, Deitrick added.

The work will be published in The Astronomical Journal, according to the statement.

https://www.space.com/40606-exoplanets-sudden-ice-age-snowball-states.html