Wednesday, December 12, 2007

First Meteorite: Friday is the 200th Anniversary of "a brisk scintillation ... like that of a burning firebrand carried against the wind"

Friday marks an odd anniversary. Shortly before dawn on December 14, 1807, a meteorite landed in the Connecticut countryside, in what was then Weston. It was the first recorded meteorite strike in the United States. Some local events marking the anniversary are on tap, and the Stamford Advocate has an interesting story about it all today. I particularly liked the description of the reaction two centuries ago:

"In the clear sky a brisk scintillation was observed about the body of the meteor, like that of a burning firebrand carried against the wind," he wrote in the American Journal of Science and Arts.

The flash was seen from as far north as Rutland, Vt., and as far south as New Jersey, Silliman wrote. There were explosions. There were whizzing and roaring sounds.

Some who saw and heard the meteorite thought it was a tornado, Silliman wrote. Others compared the sound to gunfire or to a wagon rolling down a rocky hill.

Many of the witnesses were farmers, said Judy Albin, a Weston Historical Society trustee.

"They were the ones who were up in the early morning milking the cows," she said. "One woman in Massachusetts, near the Connecticut border, was on her farm when she saw the fireball streaking across the sky. She thought it was the moon. She said, where is the moon going? Then it disappeared behind a cloud."

One farmer said his cattle were so terrified they jumped over a fence into a neighboring field, Albin said.

Here’s reporter Tim Stelloh’s story.


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