News Stories

Duck--It's a Meteor!

A meteorite crashed in eastern India, injuring five people and destroying two houses. It lit up the night sky and rattled windows before it crashed to the ground. One resident says, "It was all there for just a few seconds but it was like daylight everywhere." And in Louisiana, a meteor punched a hole in Roy Fausset?s roof. He says, "The powder room door was open and it looked like an artillery shell had hit the room."

The Louisiana meteor fell with enough force to punch a hole through the roof and descend two floors before coming to rest in the crawl space beneath the house. It was a sandy-colored rock that looked burned around the edges.

Meteorites enter the Earth's atmosphere often, but almost all of them burn up before they hit the ground. Stephen Nelson, of Tulane University, studied the Louisiana rock and says, "We found olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase and troilite," a combination of minerals often found in meteorites.

These minerals are also found deep beneath the Earth?s crust, but Nelson says, "?We don't commonly see pieces of mantle falling out of the sky. And the black crust, which I thought was a weathering line at first, perhaps it's a fusion crust?material that melted as it passed through the atmosphere."

Fausset was away when the meteor hit, but his neighbors told him it sounded like a car crash. He says, "One of my neighbors on South Tonti Street had two children in her back yard, eating Popsicles, and they heard a terrific noise. And a lady next door to her heard it. She was indoors and ran out into her back yard, but didn't see anything.

"We had just renovated the powder room and now there was plaster everywhere. I looked up at the ceiling and saw this big hole. I went outside and looked up and about midway down the front of the roof, there was a hole about the size of a basketball."

In the powder room, Fausset found another hole leading to the crawl space, where the rock was sitting. "That's when I called the police," he says. "I guess I'll go put it in my safe-deposit box, or just frame it."

Robert Roy Britt writes in Space.com that on Monday, a bright fireball over the San Francisco area flared several times over a few seconds before disappearing below the horizon. "It's by far the brightest and longest I've ever seen," says amateur astronomer Jake Burkart. "It was really amazing."

NASA's Peter Jenniskens thinks it was debris from a comet, which is more likely to break apart and generate a bright flare than an asteroid. He thinks it probably landed in the ocean.

Another bright meteor was spotted five hours earlier in Europe, and another fiery object was seen in the night sky over Australia last weekend, near the time of the Indian meteorite. No official connection between the European and California or the Australian and Indian sightings has been made.

No one has ever died from being hit by a meteorite, although one of them killed a dog in Egypt in 1911.

Do dogs go to heaven? You may not learn the answer this weekend, but you'll find out everything Betty Kovacs has learned about the miracle of death on this week's Dreamland.

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