Death from Outer Space
from the book, "Our Fascinating Earth"

Book: 
Our Fascinating Earth

Death from Outer Space

For a human or an animal to be struck by a falling meteorite is extremely rare, and yet several incidents have been recorded. A leading scientist lists twenty such events, rating them from certain to dubious. This list includes meteorites from prehistoric times to the 1950s.

The entire list includes only five recorded as certain. The most famous is the Sylacauga, Alabama, meteorite of November 30, 1954. The object first struck the roof of a house, fragmenting on impact, and then tore into the house. Some of the fragments struck a woman occupant on the arms.

On July 14, 1847, a forty—pound meteorite struck a house in Braunau, Austria. It also fragmented upon impact and penetrated the house. Several fragments fell on a bed where three children were sleeping, causing more alarm than harm.

One of the incidents listed as uncertain took place in prehistoric time. Despite its rating, there is strong evidence to indicate it probably did happen. This prehistoric entry involved a stony—iron meteorite and a Megatherium, an extinct giant South American sloth.

The broken skeleton of this Ice Age giant was found lying on the meteorite. Although the meteorite could have fallen ages before, it would have been an amazing coincidence for the sloth to have toppled over on it as it died. Moreover, the nature of the skeletal remains has led many scientists to suspect that the sloth was struck by the falling meteorite — some 20,000 years ago.