Science 10 October 2003:

Vol. 302. no. 5643, p. 224

DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5643.224b


Random Samples


A giant fireball believed to be caused by a large meteorite spread panic in eastern India last month. Around 6:30 p.m. on 27 September, people in large parts of the coastal state of Orissa reported a huge fireball and a thunderous cracking sound in the sky. The area appeared to be lit up for several seconds by "a giant greenish-blue floodlight," says geologist B. K. Mohanty of the Geological Survey of India, who spoke with eyewitnesses. Some onlookers reportedly collapsed from the shock of the spectacle, and one, a 55-year-old man, was taken to a hospital, where he died 2 days later. In one village, residents say debris set fire to a thatched-roof house, injuring three people inside. So far, only two meteorite pieces have been found.

The fatality appears to be the first linked to a recent meteorite fall, says Ralph P. Harvey, a geologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. But he's skeptical that a meteorite would be hot enough to start a fire.

Orissa villagers stumble upon meteorite debris

October 01, 2003 00:40 IST

Orissa villagers, still dazed at the rare sight of a flaming meteor screaming across the night sky of September 27, stumbled upon more debris even as the Geological Survey of India said the rock-like materials found in Kendrapara district were extra-terrestrial objects.

Unusual looking objects were recovered from two villages of the district, Sanamarichapalli under Rajnagar police station and Subarnapur under Pattamundai police station, on Tuesday morning, official sources said.

The objects are solid and rock-hard, have a black exterior while broken pieces are grey in colour. They were found in unmanned areas and the two largest weighed over three kg each.

Villagers of Paschima Suniti and Benakanda villages had found such objects in paddy fields within hours of sighting the fireball shooting across the sky dazzling at least 11 Orissa districts.

Dr K C Sahu, senior GSI scientist who had arrived in Kendrapara on Monday, said the rocks had created deep craters wherever they fell.

The villagers are depositing the debris with the police at Rajnagar and Pattamundai. The latter have been instructed by the district authorities to hand the debris over to the emergency wing of the collectorate.

According to Dr Sahu, the objects would be taken to the GSI's well-equipped laboratory in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday and later to the organisation's headquarters in Kolkata for scientific study.

Sahu revealed that remains of meteorites found elsewhere in the nation were kept in Kolkata's National Museum.

Conclusion: see Kendrapara