Meteors, Meteorites, and the Art of Dodging Space Rocks
Let’s kick things off with a bit of cosmic fun: do you know your chances of getting struck by a stray space rock? As it turns out, your odds of a close encounter with a meteorite are incredibly slim – but they’re not zero. Sound surprising? Just ask Ann Hodges (well, figuratively – she passed away in 1972). In 1954, she became the first documented survivor of a meteorite strike.
A Close Encounter in France
Recently, a woman in France found herself in the headlines, sharing a tale of a peculiar ‘poom’ from her rooftop, followed by a mysterious jolt to her ribs. Suspecting an animal intruder – a bat, perhaps? – she was in for a surprise. The suspected culprit was a rock, which a geologist later suggested could be a meteorite – a very rare occurrence, indeed.
However, this interstellar bat might be more terrestrial than she thought. According to the Mineralogy Museum of Strasbourg, this potentially offending rock might just be slag, a waste product from the metallurgical industry.
The Mystery of Falling Objects. Often Mistaken, Rarely Meteoric
Barbara Gollain, who works at the museum and has extensive experience in mysterious falling objects, explained, “At least once a week, someone brings us a stone, thinking they’ve discovered a meteorite. And in 99 percent of cases, it is not one.”
Just because the rock from Schirmeck turned out to be earthly doesn’t mean meteorites never land in human-occupied areas, but it’s extremely rare. Here’s a comforting fact from NASA: in the last 1,000 years, no human is known to have been killed by a meteorite impact. Ancient Chinese records do document a few such incidents, though they’re few and far between.
Understanding Your Risk of a Meteorite Strike
Your risk of meeting your end via meteorite increases with the size of the space rock. If you need a stark reminder of the power of a large meteorite, just ask the dinosaurs about Chicxulub – oh wait, you can’t. Their fate clearly illustrates why getting hit by a mini meteorite like the one that struck Ann Hodges is a slim-to-none chance. The odds of an extraterrestrial nugget hurling down to Earth and landing on you, an insignificant speck in the grand scheme of things, are quite thin indeed.
How NASA Protects Us From Nomadic Space Rocks
To further reduce the risk of a meteorite mishap, NASA’s Near-Earth Object experts, like Dr. Amy Mainzer, keep a vigilant eye on the cosmos. As a Professor of Planetary Science and principal investigator of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), she’s our shield against the unknown dangers of outer space.
When Meteor Strikes Meet Pop Culture
In a fascinating twist, Dr. Mainzer’s expertise even earned her a consulting role in the movie “Don’t Look Up,” which used a meteor strike as an allegory for climate change. Talk about applying real-world knowledge to reel-world entertainment!