Efforts are in progress throughout the world to put historical records into digital files, thus allowing not only preservation of archaic data but ready access throughout most countries. Most of the data is of interest primarily to researchers and historians, but some events are particularly noteworthy; one such in the 1888 meteor shower of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.
Earlier this year, while uploading court records from the Ottoman empire, researchers for the Meteoritical Society discovered a series of official reports mad to Abdul Hamid II, the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, by the governor of Sulaymaniyah. In three distinct documents, details are provided of a group of small meteorites which crashed to Earth.
One of the meteorites struck a man, paralyzing him. The man’s name was not recorded, but it is the oldest known verified case of a person suffering physical damage due to a object falling from space. Prior to the discovery, that record was held by Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges who had been injured by a grapefruit-sized meteorite in 1954. It had crashed through the roof of her farmhouse and struck her while she slept. Despite significant bruising, she recovered and was made famous by her close call.
The oldest unverified report goes back to Italy in the 17th century, where a friar was reportedly struck and killed by a stone from the sky. Lacking any documentation to back up the claim, however, the story is viewed as apocryphal by most researchers. In fact, there has never been a verified case of anyone being killed by a falling meteorite.
Or at least, there hadn’t been. Because the same documentation which provided details about the unnamed man paralyzed by a strike from space explained at length about another victim of the astronomical event – also unnamed, but killed by a blow to the head from one of the meteorites.
August 10, 1888 was an unlucky time to be a villager in Iraq if one wanted health, long life, or even a good harvest (the detailed records indicate that many of the local crops were razed first by falling stones and then by the fires the hot stones generated) but it was exactly the place to be to get into the record books.
Question of the night: What are some of the astronomical or weather effects you most enjoy witnessing?