William Menke a  professor of earth and environmental science at the LamontDoherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University took this picture of the Peekskill Meteorite Photo by William Menke

William Menke, a professor of earth and environmental science at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, took this picture of the Peekskill Meteorite.

Throwback Thursday: There Was No Way to Prevent this Famous Fall

On Oct. 9, 1992, a meteorite hurtled through space, streaked into the earth’s atmosphere and – by the hand of fate – smashed into the trunk of a 1980 Chevy Malibu in Peekskill, N.Y.

All accidents and injuries are preventable, as the popular saying goes. But sometimes – despite our best efforts to live safely – the universe throws a curveball that we never saw coming.

On Oct. 9, 1992, that proverbial curveball was a meteorite that hurtled through space, streaked into the earth’s atmosphere and – by the hand of fate – smashed into the trunk of a 1980 Chevy Malibu in Peekskill, N.Y. The meteorite plunged to the earth in a dazzling fireball, startling fans at a high school football game and slamming into the Chevy Malibu at 164 mph.

According to the History Channel’s website:

On this day in 1992, 18-year-old Michelle Knapp is watching television in her parents' living room in Peekskill, N.Y., when she hears a thunderous crash in the driveway. Alarmed, Knapp ran outside to investigate. What she found was startling, to say the least: a sizeable hole in the rear end of her car, an orange 1980 Chevy Malibu; a matching hole in the gravel driveway underneath the car; and in the hole, the culprit: what looked like an ordinary, bowling-ball–sized rock. It was extremely heavy for its size (it weighed about 28 pounds), shaped like a football and warm to the touch; also, it smelled vaguely of rotten eggs. The next day, a curator from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City confirmed that the object was a genuine meteorite.

Thousands of people in the eastern United States saw and heard the greenish Peekskill meteorite as it flashed through the night sky, and one witness “said that it crackled like a very loud sparkler,” according to history.com.

Scientists later concluded that the Peekskill meteorite was a fragment of a larger stone that broke as it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Knapp’s driveway was the final stop on a harrowing journey that began in the main asteroid belt in space, between Jupiter and Mars.  

Fortunately, no one was injured, and the story had a happy ending for Knapp: She sold the Malibu – which she’d just bought for $300 – to a meteorite collector for $10,000.

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