The true story of history's only known meteorite victim

AL.com: "A photo of Ann Hodges in 1954 shows the bruise left on her upper thigh after she was struck by a meteorite in Sylacauga, Ala. "(Alabama Museum of Natural History)

One afternoon in 1954 Ann Hodges of Alabama was napping on her couch when a meteorite the size of a software came through the ceiling, bounced off a radio and hit her in the thigh. She escaped with a giant bruise, but the meteorite inflicted much harsher damage in an unexpected way. The Air Force took the meteorite. Hodges and her husband Eugene fought to get it back, but their landlord, Birdie Guy, said the meteorite belonged to her and she sued to get it back. She settled with the Hodges, taking $500 in exchange for the rock.

From National Geographic:

Ann later suffered a nervous breakdown, and in 1964 she and Eugene separated. She died in 1972 at 52 of kidney failure at a Sylacaugan nursing home.

Eugene suspects the meteorite and frenzy that followed had taken its toll on Ann. He said "she never did recover," according to the museum.

From Slate:

That rock, even at the time, was worth a fortune. To give you an idea, a second piece was found not far away by a farmer on his property. He was able to sell it and buy a new house and a car. And his piece was less than half the mass of the Hodges chunk, with less notoriety as well. Were something like that to happen today, the meteorite would sell for a lot of money.

Hodges’ legal problems were so great that her mental and physical health suffered. She and her husband divorced, and she died of kidney failure in 1972 at the relatively young age of 52.

Read the rest

King Tut's dagger was forged from meteorite

king-tut-dagger-meteorite

New analysis of the dagger buried with King Tut confirms that the weapon was made from an iron meteorite. They used X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to study the dagger, found on Tut's mummified body by Howard Carter in 1925. Daniela Comelli of Milan Polytechnic's department of physics and her colleagues have even identified the most likely meteorite used to forge the dagger.

"We took into consideration all meteorites found within an area of 2,000 km in radius centered in the Red Sea, and we ended up with 20 iron meteorites," Comelli told Space.com. "Only one, named Kharga, turned out to have nickel and cobalt contents which are possibly consistent with the composition of the blade."

From Space.com:

The study shows the ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of precious objects, possibly perceiving those chunks of iron falling from the sky as a divine message.

The most ancient Egyptian iron artifacts, nine small beads excavated from a cemetery along the west bank of the Nile tomb in Gerzeh and dated about 3200 BC, are also made from meteoritic iron hammered into thin sheets.

"It would be very interesting to analyze more pre-Iron Age artifacts, such as other iron objects found in King Tut's tomb. We could gain precious insights into metal working technologies in ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean," Comelli said.

"King Tut's Blade Made of Meteorite" Read the rest

Meteoroid just misses skydiver

A video recently posted on YouTube appears to show a falling meteoroid just missing a skydiver in Norway. Fast forward to 1:31 to see it streak past.

"If you work out the mathematics, the odds of a 1-kilogram- rock (2.2 lbs.) passing within some 30 feet (9.1 meters) of a person on Earth's surface within 10 minutes is about 1 in 500 billion," Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office told Space.com. "You have a 1,000 times greater chance of winning the Powerball lottery."

UPDATE: Over at Slate, Phil "Bad Astronmy" Plait wrote, "It is entirely possible that what the video shows is a smaller rock that fell out of the skydiver’s parachute." Read the rest

Animated graphic of meteorites seen impacting Earth

Carlo Zapponi created Bolides, a fantastic animated visualization of meteorites that have been seen hitting the Earth. The data source is the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society's Meteorite Bulletin. "The word bolide comes from Greek βολίς bolis, which means missile. Astronomers tend to use bolide to identify an exceptionally bright fireball, particularly one that explodes." Bolides Read the rest

On the auction block: "arguably the most aesthetic iron meteorite known to exist"

Here is Heritage Auctions' description for the Gibeon Mask -- "an incomparable iron meteorite"

Closing out the Gibeon section is arguably the most aesthetic iron meteorite known to exist. In 1992, indigenous tribesmen in Namibia's Kalahari recovered this matchless specimen with the aid of a metal detector. It is extremely rare for meteorites to have naturally formed holes, and rarer still when the holes are positioned in the matrix in such a way as to yield a magnificent aesthetic specimen-let alone the highly zoomorphic example seen here. Defined by the two adjacent hollows that perforate its mass and separated by perfectly sculpted ridges, there is an exquisite asymmetric balance between this meteorite's two sides: the outward flanging of one side is offset by the larger hollow and more prominent opposing crest.

In addition to the mechanisms involved in the shaping of aesthetic iron meteorites described in the previous lot, there is one other critical detail that was of particular significance to the current example: the moment of extraction from beneath the Earth's surface. If removed several hundred years earlier, this specimen would not have been the perfectly singular zoomorphic evocation before us. If removed several hundred years later, the holes would be far too large and outsized. Adorned with a sumptuous natural patina from its stay in the Kalahari and accompanied by a custom armature and Lucite dome, this is an incomparable meteorite from the finest collection of aesthetic iron meteorites in the world. 195 x 212 x 177mm (7.66 x 8.33 x 7 inches) and 9.37 kilograms (20.66 pounds)

Provenance: The Macovich Collection, New York City.

Read the rest

Inside the Smithsonian's meteorite lab

This is a very cool, behind-the-scenes peek at how researchers at the Smithsonian deal with the problem of studying meteorites without contaminating said meteorites.

This is a big issue. We study meteorites to learn things about what has happened and is happening outside our own planetary system. If, in the process of that, we end up covering the samples with the detritus of Earth, then the message gets muddled. If you're studying a meteorite, you want to be reasonably sure that you're not accidentally studying dust or bacteria from this planet. Clean rooms like the one in this video make it easier to examine these samples in a way that is less destructive.

Learn more about the Smithsonian's collection of Antarctic meteorites.

Video Link Read the rest