NASA rejects Jayalalithaa’s meteorite theory

Image Courtesy: Google

Following the death of a bus driver at the premises of a college in Vellore, Tamil Nadu state government’s theory on how a meteorite impact caused the death evoked debates internationally.

Following the supposed meteorite strike on Saturday last, Kamraj, a bus driver at Bharatidasan engineering college was reported dead by local media.

Meteorite impact site in Vellore Image Courtesy: Facebook
Meteorite impact site in Vellore
Image Courtesy: Facebook

Earlier this week, chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalaithaa quoted expert analysis on the incident which claimed that he was killed in a meteorite impact. The event as explained by the TN chief minister was later picked up by media around the globe and thus became a hot topic of discussion on global platforms.

However, New York Times (NYT) reported NASA rejecting the theory. NYT also quoted the dean of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, G C Anupama, who termed it to be a rare phenomena.

“Considering that there was no prediction of a meteorite shower and there was no meteorite shower observed, this certainly is a rare phenomena if it is a meteorite,” she told NYT.

On the other hand, NYT reported NASA which in a ‘public statement’ observed the photographs of the crater in Vellore to be more consistent with a ‘land based explosion.” In an email to NYT, Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA, said that a death by meteorite impact never has been scientifically verified.

NYT claimed that the few grams of supposed space rock recovered from the impact site ‘appeared to be fragments of common earth rock’.

“There  have been reports of injuries, but even those were extremely rare before the Chelyabinsk event three years ago,” she told NYT.

Nearly 1200 people were injured in Chelyabinsk province in Russia in 2013 when meteorites fell. According to interior ministry of Russia, most people suffered injuries from glass pieces which shattered following the impact.

NYT also quoted International Comet Quarterly (ICQ) which tracks meteorites impacting earth. According ICQ, deaths due meteorite impacts were ‘hard to track’.

“Some (meteorites) smash through houses, kill animals and spatter buildings. But deaths have been hard to confirm. In 1908 in Tunguska, Siberia, an apparent “airblast” of an object entering Earth’s atmosphere leveled hundreds of square miles of forest and killed two men and hundreds of reindeer. But no meteorites were recovered,” ICQ was quoted.

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