A group of researchers in Turkey are claiming to have come across the first credible records yet discovered of ‘death by meteorite,’ dating from August 22, 1888.
They cite multiple official documents recovered from the General Directorate of State Archives of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, which detail a meteorite strike that hit and killed one man and paralyzed another, in what is now Sulaymaniyah in Iraq.
The Earth endures near-constant bombardment by assorted meteorites and space rocks, at a rate of millions per day, most of which burn up harmlessly in our atmosphere.
For context, and according to NASA records, since 1988 at least 822 such space rocks were big enough to break through our natural atmospheric defenses and explode in our skies, raining down meteorites like a cluster bomb, shredding everything unfortunate to be in its debris field. In this newly discovered case, two unsuspecting men.
While there is no actual rock to verify the 1888 reports, the supporting documents, only recently translated from the Ottoman Turkish language and added to a digital archive, make a strong case, the researchers argue.
The reports indicate that a large fireball was seen in the sky at approximately 8:30pm on August 10 on the Julian calendar (August 22 on the Gregorian). Soon after, meteorites reportedly “fell like rain” for roughly ten minutes, bombarding an entire village from space, killing one man and paralyzing another in the process.
The reports also contained details of significant crop damage, consistent with a fireball shockwave.
“This event is the first report ever that states a meteor impact killed a man [..] with the support of three written manuscripts that report an event in such detail as far as we know,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
Despite the overwhelming number of meteorites that hit Earth on a daily basis, there have apparently not, until now, potentially, been any direct casualty reports of meteorite fatalities.
For instance, while the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteorite caused significant damage and injury with its shockwave, it didn’t actually kill anyone, despite the fact that certain chunks of the space rock’s shrapnel weighed up to an astounding 654 kg (1,442lbs).
Meanwhile, a woman named Ann Hodges was struck directly on the hip by a meteorite while napping on her couch at her home in Alabama in 1954 and, while the rock was retrieved and found to be from out of this world, her injuries were non-fatal.