On the Bright Side: Meteors


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There’s a 99.98 (1 in 7,300) percent chance a 164-foot asteroid won’t hit the earth in September. As sad as that may seem, there are researchers around the globe that live for chasing meteors.

I’m just not one of them.

Despite that fact, the hall of meteors has always been my favorite when visiting the Field Museum in Chicago. The museum has one of the world’s largest and finest collections of meteors in the world! It’s ironic that up until 1927, Illinois didn’t have one single specimen to call a native of our own state.

“That’s just not possible; no meteorite was ever known to fall in the State of Illinois.” –Dr. O.C. Farrington, former curator, Field Museum, Chicago.

That’s the sort of bubble one might expect from a small child, but certainly not the comments of a meteor expert like the late Dr. O.C. Farrington, who quite naively, made the statement after someone told him a meteor had landed in a small town in Illinois in July 1927.

But it was true! On the early afternoon of July 13, 1927 the first authentic meteorite to land on record in the history of Illinois happened in the small town of Tilden, roughly forty miles southeast of St. Louis. In its wake it left a deafening sonic boom along with four stones weighing in at 100 pounds, 46 pounds, 9 pounds, and less than one pound.

A sonic boom is formed from the Chelyabinsk incident at the moment a meteor pierces into the atmosphere. This causes sonic shockwaves that resonate downward onto objects below.

Since then, multiple meteors have been recovered in the state, including Edward McCain’s “Meteor Insurance” incident from Sept 29, 1938, when a four by three-inch rock crashed through his garage and cut through his car like butter.

Rocks falling from the sky are no big thing when you think about it. Every inch of the globe can be violated at any time by these stone-cold space invaders that come in a variety of shapes and sizes like destructive snowflakes.

And one is coming right towards us on September! Even though it’s a slim chance, it’s still a chance.  So, the question we must ask ourselves is, what actually happens when these rocks comes in contact with humanity? 

The Russian incident in 2013 serves as a reminder of the disaster these objects can cause without even “hitting” a civilized area. The Russian Meteor eventually landed in a pond nearby and residents in the town of Chelyabinsk witnessed the effects of the rock first hand. They experienced the shock of a sonic boom, a bright flash in the sky, and a wave of sound destroying objects nearby, which blew out windows in a Karate class filled with students.

That’s scary stuff.

But have there been any direct incidents with a single person in human history? 

Actually…let’s say modern history…

Only 2 to date.

The first happened in Alabama on Nov 30th, 1954, when Elizabeth Hodges was napping on the couch in her living room during the early afternoon hours. Suddenly, a loud crash rang throughout the house, and Hodges lay still, aware that she somehow been hurt by the mysterious noise. Later, she learned a meteor had come crashing into her home, bounced off her Philco radio (we’re talking rock solid wood “Made in USA” products back then) and landed on her side, causing her excruciating pain in her hip.

Damaging as that may have been, it wasn’t a direct hit, which I’m sure Hodges was thankful for…because she probably would’ve died had.

Unfortunately, not every one of the victims was as lucky.

The second incident happened in Germany in 2009 after a meteorite fell to earth at 30,000 miles per hour and hit a 14-year-old boy! Gerrit Blank was on his way to school and saw a “ball of light” headed directly towards him in the sky.

Blank was lucky. He survived the direct strike from the pea-sized object after it bounced off his hand and left a foot wide crater in the ground next to him.

Both victims survived their incidents, but a deeper cut into history shows us multiple incidents when people encountered meteors, including hitting cars, like the Peekskill incident on October 9, 1992 when a meteor tore a hole through Michell Knapp’s trunk.

Size, velocity, speed…these are dangerous things.

If a pea sized object leaves a foot wide crater after bouncing off a boys hand….think of a 164 foot object crashing down into the big blue?

Even if it didn’t hit the ground, it could leave behind something similar to what was found in the Tunguska event during the early morning hours of June 30th, 1908. A sonic boom from a meteor is to believe to have caused a devastating amount of energy to be released over an unpopulated area of a forest with enough force of a 15-megaton atomic bomb!

The sonic boom is caused when a meteor breaks through the ozone. The force and speed of the event cause a reaction which results in damaging sound waves being released, as seen in the Russian Karate Class video.

That bright light in the sky can be just as devastating as a rock hitting the ground itself.

On the Bright Side-it’s a .0137 percent chance a rock will actually hit us in September.

Shane Saathoff
Shane Saathoff
An active writer for two decades, Shane's focuses on local news and events throughout the area, Shane is an active historian, science nerd, and tech geek. Shane is a native of Bourbonnais, IL, and alumni of Olivet Nazarene University.


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