Killed by a meteorite…or was he?
Out of this world death sparks international debate
When an Indian man was killed after being hit by a piece of debris earlier this month, the country’s Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, announced that it was in fact a meteorite which has caused his death.
This week, scientists in the country have expressed their doubts that it was in fact a piece of space rock that killed the man, triggering an international debate about the mysterious event.
Was it space debris? Was it leftover explosives? Was it frozen waste falling from a plane passing overhead?
The jury is still out but one thing is for sure, an item which fell from the sky left a big impression on the ground at the Bharathidasan Engineering College in Tamil Nadu.
Experts argue that the small size of the crater, the absence of a sonic boom before impact, a lack of debris and the green and blue colour of rock recovered from the scene suggest some other cause than a meteorite.
“It is highly improbable, but we will only be absolutely sure after a chemical analysis,” said V. Adimurthy, a senior scientist at India's space agency.
The family of the victim of the bizarre occurrence, a bus driver going by the name of Kamraj, were awarded a sum of 100,000 rupees (around £1,017) in compensation.
Scientists from the Bangalore’s Institute of Astrophysics arrived at the scene earlier this week to inspect the two-metre crater and recover a rock sample.
C.B. Devgun has been tracking meteorites for the past 20 years and said both the colour of the rock and absence of other particles ruled out the possibility of a meteorite related death.
“It cannot be a meteorite,” he said. “It was a greenish colour and no other pieces of debris were found. Normally it would be a darkish yellow or darkish black in colour, just like burned coal, with a slightly melted surface.”
Amazingly, India does have a previous recording of ‘death by meteorite’ when - in 1825 - a man was killed in a ‘meteorite fall’ according to a list maintained by scientific journal, International Comet Quarterly.
In 2013, 1,200 people were injured after a meteorite exploded over central Russia, causing fireballs to rain down, smashing windows and damaging buildings.
Whether bus driver Kamraj was in fact the victim of an out-of-this-world death, we will just have to wait and see. One thing’s for sure, he didn’t ‘planet’.