On October 9th, 1992, 18-year-old Michelle Knapp was watching television in her parents’ living room in Peekskill, New York when she heard a thunderous crash. Alarmed, she ran outside expecting to see a car accident or truck crash. She looked all around but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, “I don’t get it she thought.” Then she walked her driveway and what she found was startling: the rear end of her 1980 Chevy Malibu had a hole punched in it the size of a basketball and under her car was a huge rock that had drilled right into the pavement. The rock was hot to the touch.
The Peekskill Meteor:
Michelle and her family suspected this odd rock was a meteorite of some sort and neighbors suggested they call the American Museum of Natural History to report what happened. The next day, one of the museum’s science specialists drove up from New York City and indeed confirmed that it was a real meteorite that had blown a hole clear through her car. Soon dubbed the “Peekskill Meteor,” this meteorite was especially exciting because it was seen by so many people. In fact, a local high school football game was being played at the time and 16 different people taped it with their video cameras! Only one meteor in history has been documented more times than the Peekskill Meteor.
First, a little terminology: A meteor is a chuck of rock flying through space that gets pulled into the Earth’s gravitational field and streaks to Earth. Meteors are often referred to as shooting stars. A meteorite is the craggy rock that lays on the earth’s surface after a meteor hits the Earth. Meteorites are chunks of rock, iron and nickel that have been orbiting in space for billions of years. Some are as tiny as peas and others are as huge as mountains; most, however, are about the size of a softball. When a meteorite enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it blazes across the sky like a fireball. This is due to the heating effect that develops when an object travels at ultra-high speed through the atmosphere. Astronomers estimate that about 100 pounds of meteoric material make it every day to the Earth’s surface.
Back to our Malibu. While seeing meteors or shooting stars in the night sky is fairly common, a meteorite hitting the trunk of a car isn’t. After all, says Suburban of Farmington, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Farmington Hills, MI, a car is a very small object on a very large planet. In fact, since 71% of the surface of the Earth is covered by water, most meteorites fall into the ocean. In the case of Michelle Knapp, though, a meteorite drilled right through her car and made her wealthy. Her $300 Chevy Malibu and the meteorite were sold at auction for close to $100,000 (approximately $175,000 in 2017 dollars.) The buyer was Lang’s Fossils and Meteorites in Cranford, New Jersey. Allegedly, the meteor was cut into small pieces and sold off, but the car travels to Rock and Gem shows all over the globe. Meteors…I wish one would hit my car.
Featured Image by Flickr