KARACHI: A possible meteorite fell into a grazing ground full of bewildered animals and confused shepherds near the city of Bhakkar last week, according to preliminary reports from the area. Scientific experts from the Geology Department at Punjab University will be performing further analysis on the stone to determine the authenticity of these reports.
Several eyewitness accounts suggested that shepherds tending to their flock in a small town near tehsil Darya Khan of district Bhakkar reported an unusual occurrence to the police last week. According to residents of Kanyal, a stone from the sky fell into a grazing ground near the rural establishment on Thursday afternoon.
Meteorites are small, rock-like structures from space, which hit the surface of the earth. Meteorites are different from meteors and meteoroids, the former are bodies of matter that burn into a load of dust and fire upon entering the atmosphere of earth, while the latter are small bodies that have not entered the atmosphere of earth, yet.
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Express News correspondent Nadeem Naz reached the scene of the incident soon after people from the area contacted authorities. Eyewitnesses had gathered around the stone and were afraid to touch it, Naz told sister publication The Express Tribune.
Local residents reported hearing a sound akin to a raging storm just before the stone hit the ground, although the weather was perfectly clear that day, said Naz. He added that people told him that they were alerted to something unusual when a loud explosion ran through a five kilometre radius of their area, Panjgrain.
“Villagers had been grazing their sheep and goats in the area when they heard a rushing sound and a loud explosion which followed it,” reported Naz.
“I went to the area as soon as I heard the news and picked up the stone to examine it. It weighed around three to four kilograms, and had blackened all around,” said the correspondent, adding that he initially thought the stone was some sort of an explosive that had mistakenly fallen off some planes, which had been circling the area that day.
“I contacted the local police station at Darya Khan, and told the security officer Asad Qaiser about the incident, who told me to bury the stone in the ground and leave it there for the police to collect it the next day,” the reporter noted.
However, Nadeem Naz decided to contact the military intelligence in this regard, and was assured that somebody would contact him to follow-up on the discovery soon. Naz further revealed that he received a phone call from Deputy Superintendent Darya Khan Police Rana Nasir later that night, who told him to bring the stone to Darya Khan Police Station immediately.
Nadeem Naz rushed with the stone to the central police station of the city after the call, and handed it over to a delegation comprising Assistant Commissioner Talha Saeed, DSP Police Rana Nasir and other senior administrative and security officials.
Head Constable Darya Khan Police Station Alam Khan confirmed to The Express Tribune that the meteorite they received was charred, although he disputed the weight of the stone, maintaining that it weighed not four, but 2-3 kilograms.
“We collected the stone from Nadeem Naz of Express News and dispatched it to Punjab Forensic Science Agency in Lahore for further analysis,” Khan said. He added that the stone had since then been transferred to the Geology Department of Punjab University, which would perform more studies on the stone.
After determination as to whether the stone is actually a meteorite, it might be placed in the geology museum at the university in Lahore. It might also be handed over to Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, the national space agency which deals with these matters.
Punjab University Geology Institute Director Shahid Jamil also talked to The Express Tribune about the discovery, saying that the university was yet to receive the stone from Darya Khan Police Station, although he confirmed that AC Saeed had called him to break the news.
“We are expecting to receive the stone soon after Eid, after which we will check the overall chemical composition of the meteorite. Usually, these small bodies from space are very dense, compared to rocks on earth, and are very rich in metals such as iron and radium,” he explained. He added that he might place the stone in the university museum, which already houses two other meteorites discovered in Pakistan a long time back.
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Astronomical experts at SUPARCO have told The Express Tribune that the meteorite is part of Perseid Meteor Shower, a stunning display of nature which produces the greatest number of meteors, usually in the month of August every year. The annual shower produces almost fifty meteors per hour, although the number can vary.
Meteor showers are the result of streams left behind by cosmic debris, sometimes comets, which are icy bodies in space that orbit the sun. The route of earth around the sun overlaps with the leftover bits and pieces of comets, sometimes violently.
This particular meteor shower occurs when earth passes through debris of the comet Swift-Tuttle, a massive cosmic body that circles the sun once every 133 years. The comet was named after two scientists that discovered it in 1892, although earlier instances of its existence are present in the tales of ancient history. It last appeared in 1992, although it was only visible through binoculars, and is next scheduled to be observed by humans in 2126.