100 years ago today, a meteorite (possibly) vaporized a dog in Egypt

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Here's a bizarre milestone. On June 28, 1911, a meteorite fell over the outskirts of Alexandria, Egypt. The meteorite broke into several smaller rocks, one of which may have reduced a dog to a burnt smear.

On that fateful morning a century ago, the Nakhla meteorite broke over the village of Abu Hummus, and 40 of these fragments were recovered for research.

Although the 1.3-billion-year-old rock is famous in astrogeological circles for its Martian origins, the Nakhla rock also has the lurid (and perhaps unearned) reputation as a dog-smusher. Explains The Smithsonian:

W.F. Hume, minister of the Geological Survey of Egypt, began taking eyewitness statements, and two months later published his report, "The First Meteorite Record in Egypt."

One of those statements, from a farmer who claimed to have seen a fragment fall on a dog, gave rise to the popular myth that Nakhla, as the meteorite would be named, was "the dog killing meteorite," an unsubstantiated claim, but the dramatic account is irresistible: "The fearful column which appeared in the sky at Denshal was substantial. The terrific noise it emitted was an explosion which made it erupt several fragments of volcanic materials. These curious fragments, falling to earth, buried themselves into the sand to the depth of about one metre. One of them fell on a dog...leaving it like ashes in a moment."


There's not a ton of scholarship devoted to whether or not a dog was doomed by the heavens, but if this incident really did come to pass, everything science fiction cinema's taught us about canines and cosmic catastrophe is terrifically wrong.


Additionally, the rock's igneous formation and the presence of amino acids on the rock have led some scientists to speculate that the meteorite offers potential evidence of life on Mars, but the organic molecules probably ended up on the Nakhla sample as a result of terrestrial contamination. In any case, hug your dog today and be happy they're not on the receiving end of clumsy space detritus.

Top image via The Smithsonian. Bottom image via The University of Oklahoma.