Monday, February 8, 2016

Meteorite Strike in India Kills One and Injures Three

Forensic experts and bomb detection squad looking for clues at the scene in Nattrampally in Vellore where a meterorite fell with an explosion (Photo: DC)

A meteorite crashed into an engineering college in Vellore district, India on Saturday, causing an explosion that killed one man and injured three others, the Tamil Nadu government said on Sunday. The object fell on the college campus on the National Highway 48 at about 12.30 p.m. There was an explosion-like impact that left a three-four-foot deep crater on the campus.

Scientists, however, said it wasn't clear how the government concluded that a meteorite strike caused the blast. There has been no established death due to a meteorite hit in recorded history, they said. If a meteorite indeed caused the death, bus driver Kamaraj will be the first person ever to have died in a meteorite strike. Saturday's blast also injured two gardeners and a student.

The irregular-shaped object recovered from the college campus by a team led by an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) expert is barely 2 cm in width, weighs about 50 grams and looks like a meteorite.

This is apparently a piece of the as-yet unidentified object that fell from the sky killing a person in Vellore. Credit: EPS
This is apparently a piece of the as-yet unidentified object that fell from the sky killing a person in Vellore. Credit: EPS

To get the theory validated, the Vellore district police have sought the help of experts from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru. “We have requested experts from IIA, to come over to Vellore to examine the object and identify whether it is a meteorite,” Superintendent of Police (SP) of Vellore P K Senthil Kumari said.

Police personnel who recovered the stone said it was black in color, irregular in shape and looked like “eeyam”.

The team recovered the stone at about 4 p.m. from the rear side of the college canteen. Soil samples have also been lifted for testing.

College principal G. Baskar said they heard a loud sound.

The object is brownish-black in color and has air bubbles on its rigid surface. It was found by the police with the help of a four-member team from ISRO, led by an expert Balamurugan, behind the college canteen. The college is located at Natrampalli, about 85 km from Vellore town. The spot is about 18-20 km from Bethaveppampattu, where a similar object, suspected to be a meteorite, fell on January 26. It created a perfect circle in a farmland and fortunately there was no casualty.

Indian authorities inspect the site of a suspected meteorite landing on February 7, 2016 in an impact that killed a bus driver and injured three others on February 6. If proven, it would be the first such death in recorded history. The impact of the object left a large crater in the ground and shattered window panes in a nearby building, killing the driver who was walking past. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Indian authorities inspect the site of a suspected meteorite landing on February 7, 2016 in an impact that killed a bus driver and injured three others on February 6. If proven, it would be the first such death in recorded history. The impact of the object left a large crater in the ground and shattered window panes in a nearby building, killing the driver who was walking past. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

A bomb squad from Chennai took debris samples on Sunday for analysis at Regional Forensic Science Laboratory in Mylapore. Police said preliminary investigation by police forensics experts ruled out the possibility that explosives caused the blast.

"We did not find any trace of explosive substances, so we ruled out the possibility that explosives caused the blast," an investigating officer said. "We will wait for a final autopsy report on the body of driver Kamaraj and the report from the forensic lab to confirm what triggered the explosion."

Experts from all over the country were alarmed and expressed their concern over the inability to track these foreign objects hitting the Earth’s surface.

With the advancement of the technology like long range radars and telescopes, there has to be a way to pin down these burning objects penetrating through the atmosphere, said Dr W. Selvamurthy, former chief controller of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and space enthusiast.

Dr Selvamurthy said the incidents of meteorites hitting the land seem to be on the rise. “We can’t sit tight saying meteorites can’t be tracked when people are dying. A bigger meteorite can cause serious damage. I am sure organisations like ISRO and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) has the capability to develop a defence mechanism. NTRO has developed an anti-satellite mechanism where it can target and destroy space satellites in orbit. Why can’t we predict these objects and judge the velocity at which they are falling and where it would impact”, he said.

The space rock crashed near an engineering college in Vellore, in Tamil Nadu state, where the 40-year-old man was standing, said local minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram. Here, workers examine the site. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
The space rock crashed near an engineering college in Vellore, in Tamil Nadu state, where the 40-year-old man was standing, said local minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram. Here, workers examine the site. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Simon Goodwin, an astrophysics expert from Britain's University of Sheffield, said meteorite deaths were rare because the rocks usually burn up when passing through the Earth's atmosphere or land in the ocean or hit remote areas.

"When you look at the fraction of the Earth's surface that is heavily populated, it's not very much," he said.

“The probability of being killed by a meteorite is negligible, even witnessing one fall is rare. A fact-finding team of scientists is in Vellore to examine the crater and residue,” says Dr Harsh Vardhan, India’s minister for science and technology.

1 comment:

  1. This is BULLCRAP...I think this astronomical lie is a cover up for something sinister.

    ReplyDelete