It would have been a first — but it probably wasn't.
A report earlier this week suggested that a falling meteorite killed a bus driver and injured three others in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. However, scientific experts have since looked into the matter and cast serious doubt on the initial report from Indian government authorities.
"Considering that there was no prediction of a meteorite shower and there was no meteorite shower observed, this certainly is a rare phenomena if it is a meteorite," G.C. Anupama, the dean of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, told the New York Times.
NASA scientists, meanwhile, were more definitive in disclaiming the meteorite report. They said in a statement that photographs of the 5-foot-deep, 2-foot-wide impact crater indicated a "land-based explosion" may have caused the damage.
In fact, according to the International Comet Quarterly, no meteorite-caused death has ever been confirmed. The closest report yet, according to the New York Times, was a 1908 incident in Tunguska, Siberia when a "blast" was reported entering Earth's atmosphere. The blast flattened hundreds of square miles of forest and killed two men and hundreds of reindeer. But no meteorite was recovered.
As for the supposed meteorite recovered from the scene in India, reports are hardly definitive that it is, in fact, a meteorite. According to the BBC, some reports said police recovered "small stone weighing about 10g," while others refer to a "hard, jagged object in dark blue and small enough to be held in a close hand."
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Derek Sears, a meteorite and asteroid expert at Nasa's Space Science Division, saw a photograph of the rock. He told the BBC that "the image of the stone is too poor to tell anything, but I would have thought if the object killed someone we would have a large stone?"
If the falling object was not a meteorite, then what was it? Sears suggested to the BBC it could have been an object falling from an aircraft passing overhead. Others have said it could have been a bit of space junk that didn't burn up completely after passing through Earth's atmosphere.
Needless to say, the definitive explanation remains a mystery.
Originally published on Discovery News.
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