12 February 2009

I don't believe this

This picture is from The Guardian 12 February 2009. The caption reads:

"A mysterious metallic object that crashed through the roof of a New Jersey family's home in January 2007 was not a meteorite after all. Scientists say it is a stainless steel alloy that does not occur in nature and is most likely orbital debris, perhaps remnants of a satellite, a rocket or some other spacecraft component".

Now come on guys, we know what space debris does. It either falls as a pile of recogniseable junk or it burns up as it descends. It does not melt into something that looks like an iron meteorite. A stainless steel object falling from a plane would not melt at all.
Stainless steel is iron with 10-20% chromium, 5-15% nickel added. Whilst all metal meteorites are iron-nickel alloys they include no chromium, hence the mystery. Chromium is mined as FeCr2O4, no nickel.
So what is it? I don't know, I merely don't think there is a likely explanation. Some phenomena don't presently have explanations, and 'scientists' shouldn't be grabbing the nearest available one and saying 'that must be it'.


Anonymous said...

Occam's razor, dude!

No mystery.
Tossed by a human. No way it came from space.

hartley said...

That was a suggestion on a forum I found discussing the mystery. Occam's razor only works with known possible explanations of course.

Anonymous said...

I just gave you a probable explanation - someone tossed it.
There wasn't enough damage to have originated from space (<~70 kps)

The finder is either a victim of a prank, or scammer.

Isn't "known possible explanations" oxymoronic?