On February 6, a man died from injuries suffered from a mysterious explosion on the campus of Bharathidasan Engineering College located near Natrampalli in Vellore.
A day later, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said that the cause of the man’s death was a meteorite. That sent the scientific community in a tizzy because, if proved, it would mean that the man, a bus driver, would be the first casualty from a meteorite in recorded history.
Images taken from the site after the explosion showed a crater, five feet deep and two feet wide. A space rock was recovered from the site, which scientists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics are analysing.
But NASA scientists have now said that it is highly unlikely that the explosion, which shattered window panes of nearby buildings, was caused by a meteorite.
In fact, the officials of the engineering college too doubt the meteorite theory. “Considering that there was no prediction of a meteorite shower and there was no meteorite shower observed, this certainly is a rare phenomenon if it is a meteorite,” said Prof. G.C. Anupama, the dean of the institute, to NY Times
NASA says that the explosion was “land based”, though the police in Tamil Nadu maintain that they did not recover anything to suggest it was caused by an explosive device.
Police at the site of the explosion. The Hindu
Meteorite strikes have injured many in the years since scientists started maintaining records, but no one has been killed so far. The Vellore explosion too injured two other people, one of whom has gone deaf.
The only ‘death’ from a meteorite is believed to have happened on January 16, 1825 in India. It was described as “possible” by Lincoln La Paz, a celebrated meteorite hunter, in 1958 – a good 133 years after the incident.
Meteor showers can be predicted and organisations such as the International Meteor Organization have already listed the days when we can expect meteor showers and also if there are any chances of them hitting earth for the year 2016.