A man who says a basketball sized meteor exploded his house, finds out scientists are skeptical

The meteor in question probably came to rest miles from the man's home or burned up while in the sky.
Stephen Vicinanza
Meteorite hitting Earth
Meteorite hitting Earth

cokada/istock 

The house, which is located in Nevada County, California, became famous when its owner claimed it was struck by a "flaming basketball" meteor. The incident made headline news in the area.

The house did indeed explode, and was completely destroyed. The claim seemed real because a number of people in the area recorded the meteor's descent, from the heavens. The homeowner, Dustin Procita, was completely shocked by this seemingly freakish accident.

The local eyewitnesses to the meteor took to the internet, showing images and videos of a bright yellow light careening across the sky into the area. Neighbors in the area of Procita's home told firefighters, who showed up to fight the blaze, they heard a deafening crash, like thunder, about the same time the home went up in flames.

In an interview by local reporters Procita said, "They said it's a 1 in 4 trillion chance" hours after the 800 square foot home was reduced to smoldering debris.

Scientists are a bit more skeptical about what happened that night

The truth about meteors.

Scientists who study and track meteorites are questioning the validity of a meteorite causing the house to explode.

Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, the home of tech giants like Google's parent Alphabet, told NPR that by the time that meteorite would have touched down, there would be little to nothing left of it. He mentioned that it was most likely a rogue piece of rock from the Southern Taurid meteor shower that is famous for lighting up the largest portions of the night sky with its fireballs during October.

One part of Jenniskens' work is to locate meteorites. To do that, he uses Doppler weather radar to track them as they descend to Earth. It is known that meteorites will come into the Earth's atmosphere between 20 to 33 kilometers per second. This rapid descent often causes the rocks to break apart and melt away. This leaves very little to study, he explained.

Sometimes a larger chunk can make to Earth, or land in water. Sometimes they hit the moon.

He goes on to say, "in this case, it probably did not." he added that he was confident in the data he had collected from the Doppler radar sweeping the area.

The weather radar oftentimes catches rock hitting the ground and mistakes it for hail. When asked about this incident, and likelihood of that, Jenniskens said, "In this case, that was not seen. So we don't think that enough material survived for the radar to get a signal."

He went on to add that by his team's calculations, the basketball-sized fireball that eyewitnesses saw up in the sky would have landed 37 kilometers, about 23 miles, away from Procita's home.

The meteorites create the illusion that they are close, when they are not really close to witnesses.

In this case, reports have come in from 120 eyewitnesses from as far north as Grants Pass, Oregon, to as far south as Greenfield California, a distance of some 500 miles, and that they had seen a streaking meteor in their area.

In the final analysis, Jenniskens added, falling space debris does not start ground fires. Yes, they are called fireballs because they illuminate the sky, but they are never emitting flames.

Jenniskens did not think a meteorite could have set the house on fire, because the rock would just not be hot enough. It would have plenty of time to cool in the lower atmosphere.

When meteorites finally hit the ground he said, "they land cold."

First reported in NPR.

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