High-school student Michelle Knapp was watching TV at her parents’ house in Peekskill, New York, when she heard what sounded like a three-car pile-up outside. When she checked, though, she saw only one damaged car: her own. The 1980 Chevrolet Malibu had a crumpled bumper and trunk. And beneath it was a warm rock the size of a bowling ball, partially embedded in the gravel driveway: a 26-pound space rock that had fallen to Earth.
It happened 25 years ago tonight, at the end of a fiery plunge through the atmosphere
The glowing streak was visible for about 40 seconds. Because it was a Friday night, thousands of high school football fans saw it. And at least 16 of them recorded it on video. That allowed scientists to trace its path across the sky, and calculate some details about the original rock.
They determined, for example, that it was traveling at 33,000 miles per hour when it hit the atmosphere. It was a few feet across, and probably weighed between 10 and 25 tons. It broke up as it traveled over Kentucky, with the fragments racing northeastward.
Most of the original rock vaporized during its entry into the atmosphere. The surviving bits of rock probably were scattered across thousands of square miles. But the biggest and most famous piece landed in Peekskill.
Michelle Knapp sold the Malibu and the meteorite for tens of thousands of dollars — a windfall from a “falling star.”
More about meteorites tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield