An artist's rendering of a meteorite falling into the ocean. Shutterstock.

Antique Document From 1888 Offers First Recorded Case of Death by Meteorite Impact

The odds of getting struck by a meteorite are about 1 in 250,000.


What are the odds that a meteorite will strike a person standing on Earth? If you ask Tulane University environmental sciences professor Stephen A. Nelson, the odds of getting killed by a meteorite are about 1 in 250,000. Statistical analysis tells us that murder is (1 in 185), tornado (1 in 60,000), flood (1 in 27,000), and airplane crash (1 in 30,000), which means all of these are much more likely killers compared to a meteorite impact. “It is estimated that in any given year, the odds that you will die from an impact of an asteroid or comet are between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 250,000,” Dr. Nelson explains in his study.

Unlikely but not impossible

Nonetheless, it isn’t impossible. As it turns out, scientists have discovered what they believe is the oldest account of death and injury by a meteorite. According to a new study published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science, back in 1888, a man was killed and another injured after a meteorite impacted Earth. Scientists at Ege University (Turkey) have presented what they believe is the first evidence of an event in which a meteorite struck and killed one man and paralyzed another.


On August 22, 1888

The events occurred on August 22, 1888, in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, based on three manuscripts written in Ottoman Turkish that were extracted from the General Directorate of State Archives of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. This event was also reported to the then-sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Hamid II, by the governor of Sulaymaniyah. According to the scientific team, these findings suggest that other historical records may exist documenting other events that caused meteorite deaths and injuries.


In November 1954

One well-documented case of a meteorite impacting a person occurred in November 1954, when a meteorite came through the ceiling of the house of Ann Hodges–who was 34 at the time–, bounced off the radio and impacted her in her thigh, luckily leaving only a deep bruise on her leg. Our planet experiences meteor impacts with different risks of explosions in the air and impact on the ground.

Not all meteors burn completely

Some meteors can survive after atmospheric passage, eventually impacting the planet’s surface. Although there are various claims that people were hit and killed by meteorites in history, they have not been accurately credited to specific historical records, that is, until now. This problem could be because many ancient manuscripts were written in a language other than English or there is insufficient interest in historical records, the researchers caution in their study, published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

What NASA says

According to NASA, more than 13,500 asteroids and comets have been identified, ranging in size from a few meters to several kilometers, all located within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit. The agency reports that around 1,500 pieces of space debris are detected yearly. So far, no identified asteroids or comets present any measurable threat to Earth. “The probability of an asteroid striking the Earth and causing serious damage is very remote, but the devastating consequences of such an impact suggest we should closely study different types of asteroids to understand their compositions, structures, sizes, and future trajectories,” NASA explains.


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Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

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