A 14-year-old German boy says he was hit in the hand by a pea-sized meteorite that scared the bejeezus out of him and left a scar.
"When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road," Gerrit Blank said in a newspaper account published Friday. Astronomers analyzed the object and concluded it was indeed a natural object from space, The Telegraph reported.
The Telegraph quoted Ansgar Korte, director of the Walter Hohmann Observatory in Essen, Germany, as saying that the object was "a real meteorite, therefore it is very valuable to collectors and scientists." However, later reports suggested that Korte's comments were mistranslated, and that he was merely saying "if it's a real meteorite, then it is very valuable...."
The boy's claims drew skepticism from experts on meteor falls: "It's absolute nonsense," Darryl Pitt, curator of the Macovich Collection of Meteorites, told msnbc.com. "It's theoretically impossible."
Pitt took issue with reports quoting Blank as saying that he saw a bright flash before he was struck, or that the meteorite sped through the atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. Neither of those claimed observations match up with what's known about falling space rocks, Pitt said.
"Who knows what's going on in this young man's mind, but he's not telling the truth," he said.
Most meteors vaporize in the atmosphere, creating "shooting stars," and never reach the ground. The few that do are typically made mostly of metals. Stony space rocks, even if they are big as a car, will usually break apart or explode as they crash through the atmosphere.
There are a handful of reports of homes and cars being struck by meteorites, and many cases of space rocks streaking to the surface and being found later. But human strikes are rare. There are no known instances of humans being killed by space rocks.
According to a Space.com article on the topic a few years, back:
- On Nov. 30, 1954, Alabama housewife Ann Hodges was taking a nap on her couch when she was awakened by a 3-pound (1.4-kilogram) meteor that crashed through the roof of her house, bounced off a piece of furniture and struck her in the hip, causing a large bruise.
- On Oct. 9, 1992, a large fireball was seen streaking over the eastern United States, finally exploding into many pieces. In Peekskill, N.Y., one of the pieces struck a Chevrolet automobile owned by Michelle Knapp. Knapp was not in the car at the time.
- On June 21, 1994, Jose Martin of Spain was driving with his wife near Madrid when a 3-pound (1.4-kilogram) object crashed through his windshield, bent the steering wheel and ended up in the back seat. (The object was initially described as a meteorite but was later cataloged as a "pseudometeorite," most likely composed of artificial steel slag.)
In 2004, a 2,000-pound (900-kilogram) space rock bigger than a refrigerator exploded in the night sky over Chicago, producing a large flash and a sound resembling a detonation that woke people up. Fragments rained down on that wild Chicago night, and many were collected by residents in a northern suburb.
This report was supplemented by msnbc.com.