First credible evidence emerges of person being killed by meteor

Researchers find official records documenting fatal strike in Iraq in 1888

Peter Stubley
Saturday 25 April 2020 23:38 BST
There had previously been no reliable evidence of a fatal meteor strike
There had previously been no reliable evidence of a fatal meteor strike

The odds of being struck and killed by a meteorite are said to be as low as one in 250,000.

There has been no credible and well-documented evidence of any human being befalling this unfortunate fate.

But researchers now say they have found three separate official papers describing a fatal encounter with an extra-terrestrial object more than 130 years ago.

At around 8.30pm on 22 August, 1888, a fireball was seen in the sky shortly before a shower of meteorite pieces fell “like rain” on a village in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

One man died after being struck, while a second was left paralysed, according to the manuscripts stored in Turkish government archives.

The event appears to have been confirmed by a report to the sultan, Abdul Hamid II.

“Due to the fact that these documents are from official government sources and written by the local authorities... we do not have any suspicion on their reality,” the researchers say in an academic paper describing their findings.

They say it is the “first proof of an event ever of an event that a meteorite hit and killed a man”.

If accepted as sufficiently verified, it would also become the earliest documented incident of a meteor hitting a person.

Previously that notoriety was held by the Sylacauga meteorite, which struck Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges as she slept on a sofa in a farmhouse in Alabama, USA, in November 1954.

Hodges was bruised by the fragment, which appears to have bounced off a radio set before hitting her leg, but survived.

Other less well-documented contenders include a report said to date back to 1677, when a friar was supposedly hit and killed by a sulphurous “stone from the clouds” which lodged in his thigh.

More recently, Nasa rejected claims that a bus driver was killed by a meteorite in southern India on 6 February 2019. The agency said a land-based explosion was the most likely cause.

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