Whatever hit the car of a Kettering man early Sunday on Interstate 75 likely will remain a mystery, but experts say it is possible that a meteorite or orbital debris was responsible for the damage.
Joe Massa was returning home from work when he said he saw a flash and something strike the front end of his 2004 Buick LeSabre at about 2:20 a.m., just south of the Tylersville Road exit in Mason.
“I saw something out of the corner of my eye,” Massa said Tuesday while driving south on I-75. “You try to talk yourself out of it, but it completely blew the lens out. I saw it shoot out.”
Massa, who runs three Captain D’s restaurants in the Cincinnati area, suspects a meteorite hit his car. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! contacted him on Tuesday, he said.
“Meteorites have gone through cars and houses and even hit people, so it could have happened,” said Doug Petkie, chair and associate professor of physics at Wright State University. “But there’s a finite number of these over the past century.”
According to NASA, more than 21,000 orbital debris pieces larger than 10 centimeters are known to exist and about one per day falls back to Earth.
“There’s a lot of debris out there so it can happen,” said Cheri Adams, Director of Astronomy at the Boonshoft Museum of Discoverty. “Generally, these pieces break up and disintegrate.”
Adams said if something from space hit Massa’s car, it was not associated with Saturday’s meteor shower.
“Meteorites are chips off of other planets, moons, asteroids, things like that,” Adams said. “Meteorites making it to the surface of the Earth are generally completely unrelated to meteor showers, because meteor showers are the result of the Earth traveling through debris that’s been left behind by a comet in previous journeys.”
Andrea Koziol, associate professor of geology at UD, saw firsthand the damage space debris can do. She investigated a January 2007 incident in which something ripped through the roof of a local fence company and damaged the concrete floor.
She said the object was “a chunk of metal about the size of a small peach,” but the company did not allow her to analyze it.
“It didn’t quite look like a meteorite to me, but you can’t argue with a hole in the roof,” Koziol said. “Something hit that roof at a pretty high velocity.”
Koziol said a house in New Jersey was hit at the same time. It was thought to be a piece of a satellite that partially melted in the atmosphere.
Massa wants to find out if any space debris is embedded in his bumper before getting it repaired. His Buick has 300,000 miles on its odometer.
Finding the object would be the only way to solve the mystery, experts said.
“Since the car was moving, it’s a harder detective story to figure out,” Petkie said. “The smoking gun would be to find the meteorite.”
Massa said he has notified his insurance agent and shared his theory.
“They were like ‘Yeah, right. We need to see that.’ “
By Brian Kollars - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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