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Did a Meteorite Kill a Man in India?

This is a piece of a meteorite that hit Russia in 2013. It was on display in Chelyabinsk, Russia in October 2013. According to local authorities and scientists, it was lifted from the bottom of the Chebarkul Lake. (AP PHOTO)
Did a Meteorite Kill a Man in India?
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It sounds like the opening act of a science fiction film.

Indian officials say they believe a meteorite killed a man on Sunday in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

A local television station, NDTV, reported an Indian government minister as saying that a meteorite fell on the grounds of a private engineering college. This official said the space rock created a two-meter wide hole, or crater, on the college campus.

The American space agency, NASA, was quick to react. It said that photographs of the crater seem to show a “land-based explosion” may have caused the damage.

While the cause is unknown, debris from the blast killed a man standing nearby. Witnesses say the blast also shook buildings and broke windows.

The head of the college told the Associated Press police recovered an object that investigators plan to test.

The object is described as dark blue with jagged edges. It is reportedly small enough to be held in a closed hand. However, it is unknown if it came from space or could have fallen off a passing airplane.

Officials have tested the crater for metals. They also plan to examine soil from the crater.

The cause of the explosion is not yet known. However, what is known is that even native English speakers have trouble with the words meteor, meteoroid and meteorite.

Meteor, meteoroid or meteorite?

If you have ever seen a shooting star, you have seen a meteor.

A multiple exposure picture taken August 2013 shows a meteor shower in the sky on the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Madrid. (AFP PHOTO / DANI POZO)
A multiple exposure picture taken August 2013 shows a meteor shower in the sky on the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Madrid. (AFP PHOTO / DANI POZO)

The science website says a meteor is the flash of light we see in the sky when a small piece of “interplanetary debris burns up as it passes through our atmosphere.”

"Meteor” means the burst of light caused by the debris, not the debris itself,” says the website.

The debris is called a meteoroid. A meteoroid is interplanetary matter. It is smaller than a kilometer wide and can often be only a few millimeters in size. Most meteoroids that enter Earth's atmosphere are so small that they vaporize completely and never reach the surface.

But, if any part of a meteoroid lands on Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Most meteorites are very small. However, they can vary in size. They can be as small as a pebble or as big as a huge, life-destroying boulder.

This recent incident in India comes nearly three years after a large meteor was seen streaking across the sky in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

The shock from the blast injured more than 1,000 people and caused extensive property damage.

Collage of video footage of Chelyabinsk meteor streaking across the sky and the meteorite hitting Russia.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Have you ever seen a shooting star, or meteor, in the sky? Let us know in the Comments section. Or simply share your thoughts on this story.

This story first appeared on Anna Matteo adapted the story for Learning English. She used additional information from and other sources. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

cratern. a large round hole in the ground made by the explosion of a bomb or by something falling from the sky

debris n. the pieces that are left after something has been destroyed; wreckage

impact v. to strike forcefully

jagged adj. having a sharply uneven edge or surface

chunk n. a large amount or part of something

interplanetary adj. situated or traveling between planets

vaporize v. to destroy by or as if by making into vapor

boulder n. a very large stone or rounded piece of rock

streaking v. to move quickly