Back to previous post: Pastorale

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

October 9, 2009

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a sideshow opportunity!
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:31 AM *

October 9, 1992 was a normal Friday evening on the East Coast of the United States. Then, just before 8:00 pm, a streak of light as bright as a full moon crossed the sky, heading northeast. The meteorite took about 40 seconds to fly from somewhere in Kentucky to Peekskill, New York, where it changed forever the fate of a 1980 Chevrolet Malibu.

Considering how brief the flight was, it’s impressive that sixteen videos of it are known to exist. (Most of them were shot at football games.) The recovered piece, identified as an H6 monomict breccia meteorite, massed 12.4kg (27 pounds 5 ounces), but photos and video show that there were probably more. Apparently, they didn’t hit anything interesting, and have therefore never been found.

There are plenty of informative articles about the meteorite on the web. It’s neat. It’s a genuine Thing from Outer Space. But the object from this story that gets the eyeballs when it tours the world, from Paris to Tokyo? The car.

Because nothing has yet fallen out of the sky that is as weird as the people on whom it falls.

Comments on It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a sideshow opportunity!:
#1 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 09:18 AM:

I went to school in Peekskill (at the former convent school that later became the model for The Facts of Life, which my grandmother used to watch, but I digress), not too far from where the meteorite landed.

Neat videos of the meteorite!

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 10:12 AM:

Hauteur initiale de la fireball

I mean.

#3 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 10:41 AM:

It's all about context.

I've been to gem and mineral shows where they have displayed a piece of moon rock (encased in an acrylic pyramid and guarded by police). When all was said and done, it was just a rock encased in clear plastic. (They had no flyers, posters or other information supporting the display).

Showing what the Peekskill meteorite did after it ended it's flame lit descent... that's something people can wrap their imaginations around. That's story.

#4 ::: Andy Wilton ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 11:04 AM:

Serge @ 2: That's the first time I've seen the word 'bolide' used in its astronomical sense. A shame that it couldn't have hit a higher performance car: then it would have been one bolide hitting another.

(Of course the 1964 model Chevy Malibu could be a good deal more exciting...)

#5 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 11:17 AM:

Victoria has an excellent point, I think.

When I was growing up, one of the men in my father's department was sent a moon rock for research purposes, and it was set out in a case for people to wonder at when it first arrived on campus; there were substantial lines of people who wanted to see it, but that was many years ago, and these people had watched, sitting in their living rooms, live television broadcasts of men walking on the moon. They had that story in their heads, in ways people who weren't there cannot. They didn't need a lot of other context. Even the campus security officer and the local policeman on duty wouldn't have been much more excited to be guarding the president.

Failing that link of remembered experience, we like a spur to our imaginations--and that car is the just the thing. You can look at that and imagine being in your own place, with a car outside (yours or someone else's, it doesn't matter) and then--the world outside our atmosphere intrudes.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 11:17 AM:

Andy Wilton @ 4... Being from Quebec and having thus been exposed to lots of French SF comics in my tender youth, I had been exposed to the astronomical use of the word.

Coming soon on the Skiffy Channel, "Pintos of Sky Death". (Maybe the mega-shark will jump out of the ocean and catch them before they cause any damage.)

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 11:41 AM:

abi... You do realize that your saying "It’s a bird! It’s a plane!" means I have to post a link to a YouTube clip about the Man of Steel - this time, his catching a plane before it falls on a baseball park.

#8 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 12:22 PM:

Send not to ask for whom the sky falls--
it falls for thee.

#9 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 03:48 PM:

In the realms of interesting, this is the second car to have been hit by a meteorite. The Field Museum in Chicago has pieces from the first one, whch happened in then twenties.

I saw it last month. Oddly, the display doesn't mention this occurence.

#10 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 03:56 PM:

Fidelo @ #5


I grew up knowing man had walked on the moon. As a science fiction reader, being able to walk on the moon and other extra-terrestrial objects is part of my operational mythology. It has been done, and will probably be done again. It's a goal, just not a new, exciting one.

#11 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2009, 07:30 PM:

The rear fenders always were a weak spot on the Malibu.

#12 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2009, 12:01 AM:

Particularly enjoyable - in the sixteenth video, from Willoughby, Ohio - the cameraman, suddenly fearing he will miss a life-altering play, pans away from the blazing ball of fire in the sky and brings us back to the action on the field...

#13 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2009, 07:05 PM:

Dr Psycho @ 11:

Stop! My keyboard can't take it!

Serge @ 6:
(Maybe the mega-shark will jump out of the ocean and catch them before they cause any damage.)

Nah, Skiffy has already jumped the mega-shark.

#14 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2009, 06:19 PM:

Did somebody say mega shark?

#15 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2009, 11:45 PM:

Speaking of mega-shark, have people seen this image (also seen at the Mad Genius Club, writers division) seen during the recent east coast weather incident?
Fang is hoping to track down the image-maker. There was a nice discussion at Military Photos, too (Sydney covered by dust storm).

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2009, 03:24 AM:

Coming soon, Megashark vs Godzilla vs Gamera!!!

#17 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2009, 11:08 PM:

The CBC website is describing a recent similar event, in which a meteorite fragment hit an SUV on September 25th.

#18 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2009, 03:40 PM:

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.