The discovery of gravitational waves yesterday may be deservedly hogging the space headlines, but over in India there’s a continuing debate raging on the origins of another cosmic phenomenon.
Earlier this week, we reported that a man in the Vellore district in southern Tamil Nadu in India had supposedly been killed by a meteorite. If true, this would be the first-ever recorded death of a human from a meteorite. The blast that killed the man supposedly injured three others nearby, and formed a crater in the ground.
But NASA was having none of it. The agency said it was not possible the event was caused by a meteorite, suggesting some other source for the blast. “While more details are forthcoming from local scientists, this is unlikely something from space,” NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown said in a statement. “To form a crater the size of what has been posted online would have required a meteorite of at least several kilograms.”
New findings from scientists in India, though, add a new layer to the debate. A preliminary report by the National College Instrumentation Facility (NCIF) in Trichy says that the blast almost certainly was caused by a meteorite. They came to this conclusion by studying fragments of the suspected meteorite near the impact site, showing the “presence of carbonaceous chondrites,” reported The Indian Express.
“Carbonaceous denotes objects containing carbon or its compounds and chondrites refer to non-metallic meteorite parts containing mineral granules,” said K. Anbarasu, a geologist and principal of the Trichy-based National College, although he said that it was not a “common type” of meteorite. The meteorite has thus been named BEC 1, after the site it was found at, the Bharathidasan Engineering College.
V. Adimurthy, a senior space scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation, told the Indian Express the findings were “very significant,” adding: “The report may be clinching evidence. These findings should be shared with other material science experts.”
Further validation of the findings will be needed. But for now the saga continues, and it at least highlights that we need better systems to track possible space rocks entering our atmosphere, regardless of the true origin of this blast.
NASA has not yet responded to IFLScience for a comment on the latest developments.