Light on India’s fourteenth meteor shower

The Vidarbha region in Maharashtra was hit by a meteor shower on May 22. It was no spectacle—it came between 2 pm and 2.30 pm—in the hottest part of the day and month. Bizarre fallouts were reported. In Warud in Amravati district, the windscreen of a moving car melted. In Karanja in the same district, a truck and a car collided with a road divider due to the loud, explosion-like noise. In Katol in Nagpur tin sheds were pierced by the sheer force of falling fist-sized meteorites. Binod Kumar, deputy director of Geological Survey of India talks to Aparna Pallavi about the incident

By Binod Kumar
Published: Saturday 30 June 2012

Binod KumarWhat are meteors and what insights can they give?

Meteorites are part of the solar system, and have a composition similar to that of the earth—both are formed from solar nebula. Chemical and mineral analysis of meteorites may reveal interesting insights into the age of the solar system, the interior of the earth and so on. Many meteorites are found to contain iron and nickel, which make up the core of the earth, so it is like indirectly looking at the core. Others contain silicates. There is always a chance that some may contain unique material unknown to us. Meteorite material is extremely precious, because it originates from the same source as the earth.

How frequent are meteor showers?

They are not very rare. This is the 14th shower recorded in the country. The first one was recorded in Haryana in 1856. Odisha and Kodaikanal saw showers in 2003 and 2008 respectively. But they are unpredictable.

What was the area of impact of the latest meteor shower?

All the information is yet to come in. The area of impact appears to be a radius of about 150 km, from Akola in the west to Amravati in the east. Till date we have found five meteorites from Katol, and a sixth from Wardha is awaited. We will then study them.

What can be the implications of a meteor shower for common people?

There are not too many implications, unless the shower is too radioactive, in which case there could be fallouts similar to nuclear disasters. At best they can cause a safety hazard like the ones in Amravati or a spectacle. The implications are mostly academic and scientific in nature.

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