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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about meteor showers, which occur this time of year when the Earth passes through the dust trail of an ancient comet.


CURWOOD: On November 30, 1954, Elizabeth Hodges was napping on her couch in Sylacauga, Alabama, when an eight-and-a-half pound rock crashed through her roof, hit her arm, and left a nasty bruise. The rock, it turns out, had come straight from outer space, and it was probably part of the annual Leonids meteor showers, which occur about this time each year. This year's shower is already underway with the peak on Wednesday and Thursday. Meteor showers are caused when the earth passes through the dust trail of an ancient comet. The so-called shooting stars are particles of rock burning up in the atmosphere. When a meteor makes it all the way down to Earth it's called a meteorite. They usually land unnoticed, but every now and then they do catch people's attention. In 1992, for instance, a meteorite sliced through the trunk of a car in Peekskill, New York. But Elizabeth Hodges has suffered the only reported falling star injury. By the way, Mrs. Hodges' landlord sued her to claim ownership of the meteorite, but Mrs. Hodges prevailed. She turned down offers to sell the specimen and donated it to the University of Alabama, where it's now on display at the Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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