On This Day

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Associated Press

On This Day: Canon City Meteorite Falls to Earth

October 27, 2011 06:00 AM
by Caleb March
On Oct. 27, 1973, a 1.4 kg chondrite-type meteorite crashed through a garage roof in Canon City, Colo.

The Canon City Meteorite

On the evening of Oct. 27, 1973, a meteorite hurtled through the sky in Canon City, Colo. It landed on a garage, tearing a six-inch hole in the roof and leaving a two-inch gash in the garage’s cement floor. The meteorite, which weighed 1.4 kg at the time of impact, was classified as a chondrite, a stony meteorite that is the most common type to hit Earth.

According to scientist Glenn Huss, who was director of the American Meteorological Laboratory at the time, the Canon City meteorite originated 60 million miles away, in an asteroid belt.

At the time, it was only the third meteorite in Colorado to be discovered shortly after landfall. Upon impact, the meteorite broke into four large pieces and more than 50 fragments. A 2001 report named the Canon City meteorite as only one of 35 meteorites to hit a man-made structure in the United States.

Other Famous Cosmic Collisions

Tunguska Incident
On June 30, 1908, a huge explosion sent a fireball 12 miles into the sky above a remote region of Siberia. Although many scientists believed the Tunguska Incident to have been a large asteroid colliding with earth, asteroid fragments were never found at the crash site, and no crater could be discovered.

The explosion at Tunguska knocked people off their feet at a trading post 70 miles away, and registered as a magnitude-5 earthquake. Atmospheric shockwaves were detected as far away as England, and the high-altitude clouds that formed over the explosion reflected light from Europe to Asia.

When the Tunguska site was finally surveyed in 1927, scientists found an area of 2,150 square kilometers that had been completely flattened. The absence of a crater and meteorological fragments prevented the scientists from coming to any definite conclusions.

Scientists have since proposed many different theories to explain the Tunguska explosion, including a small black hole formation, an antimatter explosion and a UFO accident. The most widely accepted explanation is that a small comet or asteroid exploded 6 to 8 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, creating an explosion roughly a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

Jilin Meteorite
The largest modern meteorite to fall to Earth landed in northeastern China on March 8, 1976. The four-ton meteorite, known as the Jilin meteorite, landed in a rural area, the largest piece landing a few hundred meters from the nearest home. The largest piece weighed 1.77 tons and left a crater six meters deep and two meters wide in the frozen earth.

The impact created a cloud of dust 50 meters high. Many superstitious people interpreted the meteorite as a bad omen, a belief that was reinforced by the death of Communist leader Mao Zedong just a few months after the meteor landed. The largest fragment of the Jilin meteorite is now on display at the Jilin City Museum.

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