While claims have been running rife that a man was killed and three others injured by a meteorite strike in India, NASA has weighed in on the debate. After analyzing the photos published online, the space agency has apparently reported that the crater is actually more consistent with a “land based explosion,” despite early reports from the scene of the impact indicating not “a single ingredient pertaining to any kind of explosive was found at the site.”
It was on Saturday that the event reportedly took place, as the supposed “meteorite” fell from the sky and landed on Bharathidasan Engineering College's campus, near the city of Vellore in the southern Tamil Nadu state. The explosion from the apparent strike shattered windows of nearby buildings and buses, as well as splintered a water tank that the victim, a bus driver identified only as Kamaraj, was apparently heading towards. However, there were no eyewitnesses of the exact moment.
That wasn’t a meteorite that killed a man in India, NASA says https://t.co/OY8V9lBM29 pic.twitter.com/rELP2XQ4Kj
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 10, 2016
“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.” So far, there have been conflicting reports about what exactly has been recovered from the site. Some say that the police have found a small black stone, while others suggest that a jagged object dark blue in color has been retrieved.
Another criticism has been that there were no known meteor showers occurring over that region during the weekend, and so it would have been hard for the strike to slip through the observations of scientists and their monitoring equipment. But that is also true of a meteorite that took people by surprise when it struck Denmark over the weekend, and even more so of the Chelyabinsk meteorite back in 2013. Despite weighing hundreds of kilograms, the Chelyabinsk space rock was still missed by scientists until it streaked across the sky in Russia, exploding above the city and injuring more than 1,000 people.
Either way, it looks like more investigation is required to get to the bottom of the cause of the explosion. Scientists have reportedly been studying the impact crater, and have dug it up searching for any debris or fragments of rock that might be linked to the event. At the same time, scientists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics are analyzing the samples of rock collected by the police.