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Messy Meteorite

October 20, 2019

In the wee hours of October 20th, 1994, Tom Hagon was awakened by two “booms” from above. The first was a sonic boom — the result of a space rock plunging into Earth’s atmosphere. The second was an impact — a chunk of the rock hitting his roof. He dug it out the next morning — a blackened fragment that weighed about a pound.

Space rocks slam into Earth all the time. Back in June, for example, a rock as big as a car exploded above the ocean near Puerto Rico. It was detected by orbiting satellites. Most of the rocks leave no trace. But a few reach the surface. They’ve plunged through roofs, smashed cars, and punched holes in the ground.

The 1994 incident began as a bolide — an especially bright meteor blazing across the sky. It was seen over the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, traveling toward the northeast. It was quite bright. And it created a sonic boom that awakened many from their sleep. The only known fragment landed near the town of Coleman.

After it was recovered from the roof, Hagon donated part of the meteorite for research. Scientists found that it came from the middle of a larger rock — one that weighed up to a couple of hundred pounds before it hit the atmosphere. It was a type of rock known as a chondrite. It formed when dust grains in the early solar system came together and melted. The rock then orbited the Sun, perhaps for billions of years, before it ran into Earth — and a roof in a small town in Michigan.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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