This Could Be the First Record of Someone Getting Killed by a Meteorite


A drawing of a meteorite falling in Ukraine in 1866.

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum

A team of scientists think they’ve found the oldest evidence of a meteorite striking and killing a person, according to a new report published in the journal journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

Given the hype around space rocks hitting Earth, there are surprisingly few records of meteorites striking people, much less killing anyone. But scientists at the Ego University and Trakya University in Turkey and the SETI Institute in the United States found a 1888 record from General Directorate of State Archives of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey that contains three manuscripts that seem to recount a death-by-meteorite event.

The first manuscript, written on September 13, 1888, details a fireball occurring the month before in the evening, over a village whose exact location the scientists couldn’t determine. Smoke and fire accompanied the flash, and meteorites rained from the sky for 10 minutes. One man died and another was injured and paralyzed as a result of the event. A second manuscript contained a request forwarded to Sultan Abdul Hamid II asking what should be done about the event. A third also recounts the events and mentions that a man named Ahmed Munir Pasha sent a letter with “a stone piece” to the Grand Vizier.

Basically, on August 22, 1888, a meteor exploded over a village in Turkey, killing one man and paralyzing another. On September 13, a local legislator reported the event; the central government heard about it on October 8; and the sultan heard about it on October 9, according to the translations in the new paper, titled “Earliest evidence of a death and injury by a meteorite.”

Translating these documents came with its challenges—Ottoman Turkish is difficult to read, the scientists explained. The researchers noted that there are still a lot more records awaiting digitization, and they don’t have any physical evidence of the 1888 impact. Regardless, this would be the earliest known record definitively stating that a meteorite killed someone.

Meteorite deaths are exceedingly rare. Most recently, a bus driver in India named V. Kamaraj died in an apparent meteorite strike in Natrampalli back in 2016, though scientific experts, including at NASA, refuted the claim. The National Resource Council estimates that 91 people should die in meteorite-related accidents every year, but there aren’t records of these deaths. Injury-by-meteorite is perhaps more common—over 1,600 people were injured when a meteor fell over Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013, and famously, Ann Hewlett Hodges was hit and slightly hurt by a meteorite in Alabama in 1954.

Earth is big enough that the odds of dying from a meteorite impact are exceedingly slim.

https://gizmodo.com/this-could-be-the-first-record-of-someone-getting-kille-1843045054

How a Meteorite Ruined an Alabama Woman’s Afternoon 65 Years Ago


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

King Tut’s dagger was made from a meteorite

Tutankhamun, the boy king of ancient Egypt who died at 18 and later exploded inside his own sarcophagus (http://gizmodo.com/king-tut-s-body-spontaneously-combusted-inside-its-sarc-1458705368), apparently owned—and was buried with—a literal space dagger made from meteoric iron.

Researchers from Milan Polytechnic, Pisa University, and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo used a X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to determine the composition of the knife without damaging it. The iron in the blade had high percentages of nickel, and trace amounts of cobalt, phosphorus, and other material that suggest the raw material was of extraterrestrial origin. That exact composition was traced to a specific meteorite nearby. Researcher Daniela Comelli told Discovery:

“Only one [meteorite], named Kharga, turned out to have nickel and cobalt contents which are possibly consistent with the composition of the blade,” she added.

The meteorite fragment was found in 2000 on a limestone plateau at Mersa Matruh, a seaport some 150 miles west of Alexandria.

Objects made from the metal of meteorites were probably considered extremely valuable in ancient Egypt, but they also reveal the sophistication of smithing during that era of human history. And the blade was not the only object in Tut’s tomb made from an unusual and rare material: a scarab necklace he was buried with is believe to be silica glass, caused by the impact of another space rock smashing into the Libyan desert and melting the nearby sand.

http://gizmodo.com/king-tut-had-a-space-dagger-1779709241