Sylacauga slice, NMNH
|Fall date||18:46 UT on November 30, 1954|
The Sylacauga meteorite fell on November 30, 1954, at 14:46 local time (18:46 UT) in Oak Grove, Alabama, near Sylacauga. It is commonly called the Hodges meteorite because a fragment of it struck Ann Elizabeth Hodges (1920–1972).
The Sylacauga meteorite is the first documented extraterrestrial object to have injured a human being in the USA. The grapefruit-sized fragment crashed through the roof of a frame house, bounced off a large wooden console radio, and hit Hodges while she napped on a couch. The 31-year-old woman was badly bruised on one side of her body but able to walk. The event received worldwide publicity.
The Sylacauga meteorite is not the only extraterrestrial object to have struck a human. A manuscript published at Tortona, Italy, in 1677 tells of a Milanese friar who was killed by a meteorite. In 1992 a very small fragment (3 g) of Mbale meteorite hit a young Ugandan boy, but it had been slowed down by a tree and did not cause any injury.
The meteor made a fireball visible from three states as it streaked through the atmosphere, even though it fell early in the afternoon. There were also indications of an air blast, as witnesses described hearing "explosions or loud booms".
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The United States Air Force sent a helicopter to take the meteorite. Eugene Hodges, the husband of the woman who was struck, hired a lawyer to get it back. The Hodges' landlord, Bertie Guy, also claimed it, wanting to sell it to cover the damage to the house. There were offers of up to $5,000 for the meteorite. By the time it was returned to the Hodgeses, over a year later, public attention had diminished and they were unable to find a buyer willing to pay.
Ann Hodges was uncomfortable with the public attention and the stress of the dispute over ownership of the meteorite. She donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History in 1956.
Local African-American Farmer Julius McKinney found the second largest fragment from the Sylacauga meteorite. McKinney sold the meteorite to a lawyer from Indianapolis who later purchased it for the Smithsonian Institution. McKinney’s family never revealed the amount received from the sale, but it was enough for the family to purchase a car, new house, and land.
- The Hodges fragment (3.86 kilograms (8.5 lb) - ) struck Ann Elizabeth Hodges.
- The McKinney fragment (1.68 kilograms (3.7 lb) - ) was found the next day December 1, 1954 by Julius Kempis McKinney, an African-American farmer who sold the meteorite fragment he found to purchase a house and more land.
- A third fragment is believed to have impacted somewhere near Childersburg (a few km north-west of Oak Grove).
The meteoroid came in on the sunward side of the Earth, so when it hit it had passed the perihelion and was travelling outward from the Sun. Considering the orbit estimations, the best candidate as parent body is 1685 Toro.
- Povenmire, H. (1995). "The Sylacauga, Alabama Meteorite: The Impact Locations, Atmosphere Trajectory, Strewn Field and Radiant". Abstracts of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 26: 1133.
- Meteoritical Bulletin Database: Sylacauga
- "Zeus Displeased". Futility Closet. January 12, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
- "The Mbale Meteorite Fall". Dutch Meteor Society. 2002. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
- Swindel, G.W.; Jones, W.B (1954). "The Sylacauga, Talladega County, Alabama, Aerolite". Meteoritics 1 (2): 125.
- Underwood, Madison (February 15, 2013). "Russian meteorite blast recalls the Alabama woman struck by a meteorite in 1954". al.com. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
- Ellington, M.J. (November 30, 2006). "A star fell on Sylacauga: '54 meteorite struck home, woman, changed lives". The Decatur Daily. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
- University of Alabama News: 50th Anniversary of Hodges Meteorite
- Alabama Museum of Natural History: Hodges Meteorite
- National Geographic: The True Story of History's Only Known Meteorite Victim