A meteorite may have just killed someone for the first time on record
A mysterious object is believed to have fallen from the sky in India over the weekend, blasting out windows and causing an explosion that left one dead.
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We know that meteorites have the potential to really wreak havoc on Earth, whether it's a little one blowing out windows in Russia, or a bigger one wiping out the dinosaurs. But there's no known record of a space rock conclusively causing the death of a human...except, perhaps, until now.
An explosion on the grounds of an engineering school in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Saturday reportedly broke windows, and led to the injuries of three people and the death of one school employee. CNN learned the event left a crater 2 feet deep (60cm). Police officials believe the cause was an object that fell from the sky.
"We can rule out the possibility of any terror angle or sabotage. Not a single ingredient pertaining to any kind of explosive was found at the site. We suspect it to be a meteorite fall," a local police spokesperson told The Hindu newspaper.
Dazzling shots of the 2015 Perseid meteor shower (pictures)
While plenty of space rocks and junk hit the Earth each year, the vast majority of our planet's surface is either covered by water or otherwise mostly unoccupied by humans, so it's very rare to see an impact near a populated area.
NASA and others are actively working to spot, catalog and track large asteroids that would do serious damage should they impact the Earth. Smaller meteors like the one that may have hit India or the one that rocked Russia a few years ago are pretty much impossible to spot early enough to do anything about.
"We don't have time to deflect it, we probably don't have time to evacuate an area, but what we can do is start to educate people," Hugh Lewis of the University of Southampton told the Guardian, following the meteor strike in Russia in 2013. Lewis, an expert in space debris and near Earth objects, was talking about personal safety. "If you see something like this -- bright flash in the sky, huge smoke trail that's formed -- the last thing you want to do is be standing next to a window."