When a falling star falls far too close: the Hodges meteorite

Today, November 30 in 1954, Ann Hodges of Alabama had an experience that no sane person would expect: she was hit by a meteorite which crashed into her home and struck her on the hip whilst she was sleeping on the sofa.

The meteorite, which weighed about 8.5 pounds, was a regular stony chondrite meteorite which bounced off a radio and caused the unfortunate Hodges extensive bruising. It was the first meteorite known to have hit a human, and remains one of just two.

Best known as the 'Hodges meteorite', the grapefruit sized rock was a fragment of the Sylacauga meteorite (named after the Alabama town).

There was a substantial argument over who owned the rock. When the United Space Air Force took it in for study, Ann Hodges's husband and also their landlord produced claims for ownership.

At one time offers were being made for $5,000 or more for the rock - a great deal for a chondrite of that size. Hodges herself was not comfortable with the attention, however, and had it donated to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, against her husband's wishes.

Although the value of most meteorites is largely determined by the time they reach the ground, a human memorabilia aspect can add value to meteorites too.

The famous Barwell meteorite, which fell on Barwell, Leicestershire, UK on Christmas Eve, 1965 now sells at around £200 per 3g fragment. The total size of the meteorite when all the fragments had been collected together was 'about the size of a Christmas turkey'.

A much larger meteorite - 56lb - hit Wold Cottage in East Yorkshire, UK over 200 years ago in 1795. Fragments of this in particular have increased in value sharply, with tiny pieces worth £100 ($156) a decade ago now worth £240.

But that doesn't mean many would envy Ann Hodges her unnerving and painful experience. When you wish upon a falling star, perhaps you should just wish it doesn't land on you.


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