Did a Meteorite Kill Someone for the First Time in Almost 200 Years?

The odds of that happening are astronomically low.

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On Saturday, an explosion on a college campus in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu killed a bus driver who was close by, and injured three others. The blast was big enough to blow out the windows in nearby buildings.

Was it terrorism? A science experiment gone wrong? An infrastructure accident?

None of the above. The prime suspect so far: a meteorite from space.

With no evidence of explosives in play, and no signs of pretty much any other cause, investigators in the state are beginning to believe the blast — which left a pretty big crater in the ground and seems to have been accompanied by some strange blue stone the shape of a diamond — was an object from space, most likely a fragment of a comet or an asteroid.

If that’s true, then the deceased bus driver is the first man on record to be killed by a meteorite crash since 1825, according to a database maintained by the Cometary Science Center at Harvard University. (Ironically, that death happened in India as well.)

Tamil Nadu’s chief minister said in a statement, “A meteorite fell within the college premises,” though a local official cautioned the state needed to complete its investigation and send fragments of the blast out to a lab for analysis, before it could confirm that a meteorite was to blame.

The odds of you — specifically you — being hit by a meteorite are one in 20,000,000,000,000. Yup. (The odds of anyone on earth being hit is actually one in 3,000.) Most meteorites just burn up in the atmosphere before they even hit the ground.

Of course, that didn’t stop us from wondering what might happen if the circumstances favored a more dangerous crash …