- A host of mostly coincidental recent events make Chicken
Little sound ever-so-slightly more credible. In the past eight days, stuff
falling from space rocked a village in India and a bathroom in Louisiana,
while lighting up the skies over the San Francisco Bay area, Europe and
- The most spectacular visitor from beyond was a meteorite
initially said to set a village afire in India and injure 20 people this
past weekend. Later reports by the BBC and elsewhere put the injuries at
- The fireball streaking through the sky turned night into
day, witnesses said. It was reported visible across a nearly 5,800-square-mile
(15,000-square-kilometer) region. Two pieces about 11 pounds each (5 kilograms)
were said to be recovered.
- On Monday, Sept. 29, a bright fireball startled residents
around San Francisco. Witnesses said it flared several times over a few
seconds before disappearing below the horizon, according to a report in
the San Jose Mercury News.
- "It's by far the brightest and longest I've ever
seen,'' said Jake Burkart, an amateur astronomer who said he'd been watching
shooting stars since his youth. "It was really amazing.''
- Peter Jenniskens, an astronomer with the SETI Institute
and NASA's Ames Research Center, told the newspaper that the event had
the markings of comet debris, which is more fragile than asteroid material
and therefore more likely to break apart and generate a bright flare.
- The object may have landed in the ocean, Jenniskens said.
- Jenniskens said the fireball might have been part of
an unexpected shower of debris. Another bright meteor had been spotted
five hours prior from Europe, he said.
- Another bright and fiery object was seen in the night
sky over Australia this past weekend, near the time of the Indian meteorite.
No connection between the two has been made. An official in Australia said,
however, that manmade space junk may have caused the curious event spotted
from south of Queensland.
- Space rocks frequently strike Earth's atmosphere. They
are called meteors when streaking into the ever-denser air, where most
vaporize. While in space they might be referred to as asteroids if they
are large, or meteoroids if they are small. If they hit the ground, they're
- Most of the smaller pieces light up fantastically, as
shooting stars or fireballs, and never reach ground. It is not uncommon
for residents of a particular region to be surprised or even shocked by
a fireball, as space debris rains down on Earth daily.
- Many visible shooting stars start out as bits no larger
than a sand grain. It only takes a pea-sized object to generate a brilliant
fireball. And even something the size of a Volkswagen can disintegrate
before reaching the surface.
- One that did not fully vaporize hit Roy Fausset's recently
renovated bathroom Sept. 23 in New Orleans.
- Fausset returned from work to find holes in his roof
and two floors. A space rock was in a crawl space under the house.
- "The powder room door was open and it looked like
an artillery shell had hit the room," he told the Associated Press.
Tests by Tulane University researchers suggest the object indeed came from
- "I'm in shock," Fausset told the Associated
Press. "Oh, that's scary. I will certainly go to church this Sunday,
because the Lord was certainly sending me a message."
- There are no known deaths by meteorites. But a few people
have been injured