Gerrit Blank

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Gerrit Blank, a teenager from Essen, western Germany, claimed to have been struck by a meteorite as he was walking to school in June, 2009. This claim has since been widely discredited by the scientific community as a hoax.

The schoolboy claimed that he saw a bright streak of light heading towards him. The pea-sized meteor grazed the top surface of his left hand, leaving a three-inch burn scar before striking the asphalt road surface, and burning a 12-inch-wide (300 mm) crater in the tarmac. These observations are not possible and are not consistent with a true meteorite impact of this small size (cf. terminal velocity). The worldwide reporting in the media is certainly the result of the general public's misguided perception of a typical meteorite strike, largely due to the many Hollywood movies over-dramatisation of such meteorite falls.

Astronomer Ansgar Korte, of Essen’s Walter Hohmann observatory, was misquoted to say: "It's a real meteorite. It's very valuable to scientists." In fact, Mr. Korte had not even seen the meteorite at this stage. According to astronomer Phil Plait "my friend the Dutch science writer Govert Schilling talked to Korte who is claiming he never saw the meteorite and was misquoted".[1] Plait goes on to identify a number of major inaccuracies and ambiguities in the story as reported.

The German scientists quoted in the original press articles were also asked for an explanation (and clarification), they replied as follows:

Typically a meteorite fall happens as described below:

A piece of rock or metal from space collides with the atmosphere of our planet. Due to the high speed in the range of 30 to 80 kilometers per second the friction between atmosphere and the object from space heats the object up to shining bright glow; At a height of about 100 km the Object begins to glow, and the meteor appears in the sky; At a height between 20 and 40 km all the kinetic energy is depleted and the remaining object - if still existing - falls further down to the ground like a common stone or piece of metal. At this stage, it has lost all of its cosmic velocity and falls to the ground in free-fall, no faster than if it had been dropped from an aircraft. Because of this long- lasting flight through the atmosphere such a small object as reported in the last days has enough time to cool down to ambient temperature.

Given these facts it appears to be very unlikely that the occasion reported a few days ago was caused by a meteorite.

The only human confirmed to be struck and injured by a genuine meteorite was 31-year-old Ann Hodges, of Sylacauga, Alabama. She was struck while asleep in bed on November 30, 1954, after the meteorite punched through the roof of her home, smashed a wooden cabinet, and then bounced off the floor and struck her in the hand and hip. The meteorite, which weighed about eight and a half pounds, caused extensive bruising.

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