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Wednesday, 14 March 2012 01:52

Thoughts on the recent Oslo meteorite discovery


Basically, the tale is garbage!  It's a nice rock, but it certainly doesn't appear to be a meteorite.

I read with some interest (combining my Geology qualification with an interest in Astronomy dating back to my teens) yesterday's yarn of what was claimed to be a meteorite that crashed through the roof of a garden hut in Oslo, Norway.

The article shows two nice pieces of rock resting on a sheet of paper being viewed by one of its discoverers.

Reading the article, we are told that the two pieces weigh a combined 585 grams and that they are suspected to have come from a meteor seen in the skies over Norway on March 1st (note the article incorrectly claims that what was seen on March 1st was a meteorite, however the term 'meteorite' is *only* applied to the actual rocks discovered, when seen in the sky it is correctly referred to as a 'meteor').

Further, we are told that this particular meteor is a breccia.  This is a type of rock which is composed on fragments of older rocks stuck together in some fashion, whether simply by heat and pressure or by some bonding substance (in much the same fashion as concrete is created).

However, we have some problems with all of this.

Firstly the fact that it is a breccia

Almost always, breccias are weak rocks - they can come apart with relatively minimal force as the bonding forces or substances are weak.  Breccias are highly unlikely to survive re-entry through the atmosphere (hint: they'll burn and glow just the same as re-entering space capsules), as the unevenly distributed heating forces will cause all kinds of stresses.

Next, have a look here, where I've conducted a simple search for the word 'meteorite' in Google Images.  Have a close look at the many dozens of images.  Almost invariably they show signs of heat damage - there's evidence of scorching, of melting; at the very least there is blackening and charring.

Now return to the photo in the article linked at the top of this page.  There is no visible evidence of damage at all.  It's a plain old rock (broken in two).  And the 'broken in two' is also a big clue. 

If the rock was robust enough to survive heating to many thousands of degrees and all the buffeting and turmoil associated with the journey through the Earth's atmosphere, how was it that its final crash through the roof and (likely gentle) floor or soil impact caused a cleave along a clearly pre-existing fissure?

Were I a suspicious man, I'd be doing a few things in Oslo.

First, I'd be checking the trajectory angle as indicated by the hole in the roof and the location of the charred floor of the hut (there *was* charring wasn't there?  This thing is quite likely to have arrived very hot!).  Due to the way air acts on an object that is under the influence of both its own momentum and of the Earth's gravity, the path will tend toward vertical no matter what the original arrival angle. 

This means that the hole in the roof ought to be close to directly above the impact point on the floor.  Of course this is not true for exceedingly large objects - a bus-sized meteorite won't deviate much from its original course whereas a small rock (as this one is) will.

Next, I'd be casting an eye around the local geology, wondering if breccias are common in the area (or if they're found in quarries which supply the town).

Finally, I'd be attempting to take finger prints off the rock in the hope that they might match one or more of the local ne'er-do-well teenagers who might just have been practicing their projectile-launching skills. 

Of course the lads may not be strong enough to have launched this object with sufficient force through muscle alone, so checking for home-made launching equipment might also be a good idea.

Finally, let me say that I'm happy to be proven wrong, but on all the evidence presented in the article I referenced on page 1, I'm calling this 'bogus.'


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.



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