Near-miss for Australian town

Up until 10 years back, I was under the impression that as individuals we run little risk of being struck by objects falling on us from between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  A slim chance, but one tempered by a recollection of my father’s news clip of a small meteorite landing in the sidecar of a 1930’s biker on his way from Hull to Hornsea.  The biker finished his journey.  These days aliens seem to be falling thick and fast.

Late last year, the sleepy hamlet of Guyra, Australia, about 400 kilometres north of Sydney had a heavenly visitor, or so it seemed. On December 7, an object the size of a cricket ball slammed into the town water supply. In recent months, town officials have been pondering how to exploit their near misfortune.

In early July, a local businessman pledged AU$3,000 to dredge the rock out of the reservoir’s bed so it could be put on display, given to a local university or donated to the Australian Museum in Sydney.  Intrepid snorklers discovered that the object had drilled a 1 metre hole in the mud, after penetrating the reservoir itself.  Because such a small meteorite should have slowed to terminal velocity on entering the atmosphere from space, it is highly unlikely that it would have had enough remaining energy after ploughing through water to have buried itself that deep.  Experts have cautioned the amateur meteorite collectors to leave the object well alone, pending more cautious examination.

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