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January 29, 2018

Around dinnertime on January 30th of 1868, a brilliant light streaked above Poland, northeast of Warsaw — a blue fireball with a glowing red tail. A few minutes later, a sound louder than a cannon blast reverberated across the landscape, followed by a low, thunder-like rumbling that lasted for minutes. Finally, a hailstorm pelted the ground near the village of Pultusk — a cosmic hailstorm. It’s the biggest storm of its type yet seen.

The incident was triggered when a big space rock slammed into Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the rock vaporized as it dropped through the sky. What was left of it exploded. Debris then rained across the countryside, covering dozens of square miles. Witnesses heard some of the rocks pelting the ground outside their houses.

Most estimates say that tens of thousands of bits of debris hit the ground. About nine thousand of these meteorites have been cataloged, totaling less than 600 pounds. The largest weighs about 20 pounds. But most weigh only a few grams; they’re known as Pultusk Peas.

The meteorites have been classified as chondrites — the most common type of meteorite. They’re made mainly of rock, with droplets of melted rock mixed in. They were blasted into space by a collision between larger space rocks, known as asteroids.

Eventually, some of these meteorites ram into Earth — like the one that exploded above Poland, producing a cosmic hailstorm 150 years ago tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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