Historical documents show that a meteorite hit and killed one man and paralyzed another in what’s now called Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.
Over 130 years ago, two very unlucky men were hit by a meteorite. This is what historical documents recently analyzed by researchers indicate.
The discovery was published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science. Scientists at the Ege University in Turkey analyzed three 1888 manuscripts sent to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Hamid II. The documents currently belong to the General Directorate of State Archives of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey.
Written by authorities, the letters report that on August 22, 1888, several meteorites fell on villages in a region now known as Sulaymaniyah, in Iraq. The “cosmic rain” occurred for about 10 minutes, until a large “glowing ball” ended up hitting a hill.
“As a consequence of this event, one man was killed and the other was seriously injured and left paralyzed,” explained the researchers in the study. The meteorite’s impact also damaged crops.
Although the documents found are not scientific, the researchers do not dismiss their importance. “This event is the first report ever that states a meteor impact killed a man,” they point out. “Due to the fact that these documents are from official government sources and written by the local authorities, even grand vizier himself as well, we do not have any suspicion on their reality.”
The research authors also note that there are probably many other historical records on deaths by meteorites that have not yet been studied. The documents analyzed by the researchers, for example, were only recently transferred to a digital archive, and were written in the Ottoman Turkish language, which is more difficult to translate.
Although reports of people who have been hit by meteorites are very rare, they hit Earth quite often. According to NASA data, at least 822 impacts have occurred since 1988. One of the most famous cases – and one of the few actually confirmed – of this type of incident is that of Ann Hodges. In November 1954, a meteorite the size of a baseball went through the roof of her house and hit her in the waist, leaving a large bruise.