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How Likely Are You To Be Struck By A Meteorite, Really?

A man in India was apparently killed when a possible meteorite fell directly on him. What are the chances that this could happen to you?

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An Indian bus driver was killed over the weekend in an explosion that local officials are blaming on a meteorite.

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If confirmed, this would be the first recorded instance of a fatality caused by a meteorite strike. There are two confirmed instances of meteorites striking humans previously, but neither events were fatal.

Some are skeptical that the incident in India was actually caused by a meteorite in the first place.

Exactly how unlikely would it be for YOU to get struck by a meteorite? We asked around and got some answers:

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According to meteorite expert Peter Brown, one human on this planet will be struck by a meteorite 200 grams (~0.4 pounds) or larger about once every seven or so years.

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Brown is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. His estimate is based on numbers from a 1985 paper updated with today's population numbers.

Professor Henry Melosh, another meteorite expert at Purdue University, came to a similar estimate using a different approach, but both scientists stressed there are lots of uncertainties and that their numbers are only broad estimates.

That might sound shockingly high, but Brown said many people might not even notice if they are hit with a small meteorite.

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Brown said that a small meteorite fragment of about a couple of grams would strike a person at only about 40 mph. "You could tell you've been hit but it might not be clear what it was," he said.

One of those 200g bits, he said, might hit someone at closer to 90 mph, which would clearly be noticeable, but is unlikely to be fatal unless the person was struck directly in the head.

"In terms of actually being hit by a meteorite," Brown said, "the danger to people in general is trivial."

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