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Meteor Rain of 1856
t_oner
post Oct 15 2007, 05:52 PM
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According to turkish newspaper Hurriyet (October 15th, 2007) an investigator working in the Ottoman archives found a letter sent by Kirkuk Post Office Manager Seyit Hasan to Sultan Abdulmecid dated June 27th, 1856. Here is a quick translation of the letter:

"God save the Ottoman land from natural disasters. Amen. Since the 15th day of may in the 74th year (islamic calendar?) temperatures in the region increased day by day up to more than 40 degrees. Due to intense heat 250 people living in houses and tents have died. Inhabitants of 4 cities started living in cellars and wells. Summer crops started to burn due to intense heat. 6th of June, on friday night, around midnight [here is a description of an astronomical event that I could not translate because it is in ottoman]. After this, more terrible than lightning some noises were heard as if "kudret topu" (kind of an Ottoman gun) was fired three times. For 15 minutes noises were heard as if there was a gun training. Then fireballs bright as full moon were seen and disapperaed after 5-6 minutes. After 1-2 hours later another star was seen as a meteor?

Until now no one has ever seen such a rainbow ("sky belt" in turkish) around here. Because of this people were afraid as in apocalypse and both jews and muslims and also other people from other religions went to their mosques, synagogues and churches and prayed in tears. Because of this situation lots of men and women were in panic, many pregnant women lost their babies, many children became epileptic. Cries had reached sky. After this meteor event the temperatures started to decrease, and weather started to get to normal. After a few days a meteorite weighing about 1.5 kg was found from the places that were hit by the falling objects and it was brought to the local government. This is presented to your high court for your information. June 27th, 1856, Kirkuk Post Office Manager.
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nprev
post Oct 16 2007, 12:12 AM
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From the description of the event, I'm very surprised that only one fragment was recovered. Do you know if any additional material was ever found, Tayfun?


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t_oner
post Oct 16 2007, 01:29 PM
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No, as far as I know the letter is the only evidence about the event. Does anybody know if it coincides with a particular event?
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TheChemist
post Oct 16 2007, 11:14 PM
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I could not find anything reported in May/June 1856 here:
Catalogue of aërolites and Bolides, from A.D. 2 to A.D. 1860

Also, no comets reported for 1856 here :
Catalogue of Comet Discoveries

This is very interesting (and sleep-depriving) smile.gif


Addition :
I also found this article that might be helpful :

Ancient Chinese records of meteor showers
Chinese Astronomy, Volume 1, Issue 2, December 1977, Pages 197-220
Zhuang Tian-shan (pdf link for subscribers to ScienceDirect)

However, I have to call it a day, and have a look at it tomorrow.
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nprev
post Oct 17 2007, 12:32 AM
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Tayfun, in general, are astronomical reports from this era fairly well documented in Turkish records? I doubt that there was much scientific information exchange between the Ottoman Empire and the Western states during this period; if you dig some more, wouldn't be a bit surprised if you found a few more events like these! smile.gif

EDIT: After more carefully re-reading your excellent translation, I wonder if this was a compound event. It almost seems as if the original author was describing very high heat followed by some very strong thunderstorms (Kirkuk is pretty close to the mountains, so topographical uplift from a strong incoming front would have been a real possibility). Then, in the middle of the storm, a good-sized meteor falls...noticed that the author used the plural, 'fragments', so maybe there were a number of rocks around that just never got found due to the chaos of the storm & panic.

Interesting!


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bigdipper
post Oct 20 2007, 01:15 PM
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A visit to on online turkish-english dictionary was of no help, but isn't it possible that this is documentation of a severe thunderstorm with large hail? That could explain the limited reporting of this meteorological event. 1.5 kg would be a record size for a hailstone- the current world record is 1 kilo (Bangladesh 1986).
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nprev
post Oct 20 2007, 01:53 PM
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That sounds like a reasonable explanation as well, BD; definitely simpler than a coincidental set of events as I described.

Tayfun, what is the Turkish word for "meteorite" in the document? What I'm wondering is whether there was a colloquial, possibly generic term in the language for objects falling from the sky during this period.


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t_oner
post Oct 20 2007, 04:23 PM
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That seems like a logical explanation, but I really don't know more than you do, as this is a translation from a news in the paper. (http://hurarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/goster/haber.aspx?id=7484405&tarih=2007-10-15). The original is in ottoman which is not included in the article. Ottoman is a version of turkish that is a mixture of arabic and persian words with also some grammar from both languages. One mistake I made in translation is that it says pieces were found totaling 1.5 kg not a single piece.

Text indicates that it was possible to see the night sky clearly and the pieces were found after a few days, wouldn't hailstones melt?

I will try to reach the investigator and ask him if bigdipper's theory is a possibility.
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nprev
post Oct 20 2007, 08:55 PM
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Ah...didn't completely understand that Ottoman was a distinct dialect! Yeah, hailstones would definitely melt in May after a few days...perhpas my hypothesis has some life in it yet.


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Mongo
post Oct 20 2007, 11:35 PM
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QUOTE (bigdipper @ Oct 20 2007, 01:15 PM) *
A visit to on online turkish-english dictionary was of no help, but isn't it possible that this is documentation of a severe thunderstorm with large hail? That could explain the limited reporting of this meteorological event. 1.5 kg would be a record size for a hailstone- the current world record is 1 kilo (Bangladesh 1986).

Huh... I wonder if a hailstorm I witnessed as a child produced "world-record" hailstones? Most of the stones were baseball-sized to softball-sized, but at least a few I found in our front yard were significantly larger. In addition, the local paper had a photo of a dinner-plate sized hailstone (judging by the ruler next to it, about 11" / 28 cm in diameter). I do not know how thick it was, but it had to have been at least several cm thick.

Volume of the largest hailstone I personally saw in my front yard (about 4" / 10 cm in diameter) = ~520 cc

The hailstones also had numerous "spikes" up to 5 cm long protruding from them, making them look like medieval maces, but that would not substantially increase the total volume, so they probably weighed up to half a kilogram.

The "dinner-plate" hailstone would have had an area (seen from above) of around 620 square cm. The "world-record" mass of 1 kg would be reached with an average thickness of 1.6 cm, and I believe (but cannot verify) that the thickness of that particular hailstone would have been significantly greater, possibly twice or three times that amount.

Bill

edit -- I just checked online, and the largest recorded diameter for any hailstone is 7" / 17 cm. I definitely know that numerous hailstones larger than that fell during the storm I am talking about -- too bad that nobody at the time thought to send photos and measurements to an official record-keeping body, this was back in the early 1970s.
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nprev
post Oct 21 2007, 05:23 AM
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blink.gif ...good grief, Bill...sure hope that your parents had a garage! I drove through a thunderstorm in Utah back in the 80s that produced golfball-sized hail, and it totally messed up my car; can't imagine what the behemoths you described could do...


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Mongo
post Oct 21 2007, 01:36 PM
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Nope, our family car was parked in the driveway. Naturally, it needed new window glass and bodywork, as did almost every car and truck parked outside a garage, as I recall.

For some reason, where I grew up (northwestern Ontario) there would be an occasional (once every year or two) VERY intense thunderstorm, far more damaging than your ordinary storm. This hailstorm was one of them, but not the most damaging by a long shot. Given how hailstones are formed, there must have been very powerful updrafts inside it, but the winds were more typical of other storms at ground level. A storm a year later was much more windy, blowing down most of the trees in town and taking a few roofs off, and also produced hailstones, but they were 'only' marble-sized.

Now that I think about it, I would guess that the reason we would occasionally get those extra-powerful thunderstorms was that we were just past the eastern edge of the Prairies, which of course are known for their powerful storms, and the storm fronts would pass over several hundred km of the Canadian Shield (which is 30% - 50% covered by lakes), picking up water vapour (and intensifying) along the way.

I have emailed the editor of the local paper, and with luck they still have archive copies of the issue containing the photo of the record-setting hailstone.

Bill
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bigdipper
post Oct 22 2007, 01:35 AM
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Link to photos/storm reports for 2003 U.S. Record size hail in Aurora, Nebraska.

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gid/Web_Stories/20..._megastorms.php

Of note:

Hailstones were reported to be the size of volleyballs...which was not far from the truth given the enormous impact craters left in the ground...some as large as 12 inches and over 3 inches deep on grass lawns. One gentleman risked life and limb to grab the largest known hailstone to fall in Nebraska by grabbing this monster, which had a diameter of 6.5 inches, circumference of 17 3/8 inches and weighed 1.33 pounds.

0855 PM AURORA NE 4.5 INCH HAIL
06/22/03 HAMILTON REPORTED BY STORM
SPOTTER. HOLES IN
NEIGHBORS ROOF BIG
ENOUGH TO CRAWL THROUGH.
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dvandorn
post Oct 22 2007, 04:48 AM
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Since there were no other reports around the world of unusual meteor activity during this period, it seems there are only a few possible explanations for this quite interesting report:

1) These meteors were a portion of a coherent body which broke up very late in its approach to Earth, such that the footprint of the activity was very limited. This would mean that the entire event would have taken place over the course of minutes and not hours -- but in this kind of circumstance, I can imagine that five minutes would seem like an hour to people in the path of the meteors.

2) The event was some kind of freak weather event. However, as much as the discussion of this possibility has been lively, I can't imagine that one could collect samples of hailstones that would last for very long in the summer -- even in the cool air that would follow such a severe storm front. And hailstones are so identifiable as ice, I can't imagine the account not making reference to this obvious compositional data. And finally, I can't imagine anyone mistaking lightning in a thunderstorm for meteors in a clear sky. Too many factors argue against this option, I'm afraid it doesn't hold up.

3) The inhabitants of this district had their summer crops decimated by drought, but knew that the Ottomon Emperor would be demanding his tribute (likely in foodstuffs) in a month or two. They looked at the food they would have to survive the winter and decided that, if they paid their taxes, they'd most all starve to death. So they pled for mercy by telling the story of a killing heat wave, and embroidered it with a mystical fall of stars from the very sky. If I had to bet, I would lay odds that this is the most correct answer.

smile.gif

-the other Doug


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bigdipper
post Oct 22 2007, 11:37 PM
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As much as I favor creative tax strategies...

I think the hailstorm is the most plausible explanation.

1) The account does not assert clear skies, merely that the events were "as bright as the moon"
2) Small geographic area affected (as far as we know)
3) Consistent with hot summer weather
4) Extreme lighting event (perhaps including "ball" lighting)
5) Fantastic rainbow in the morning (rainbows are at their best near sunrise or sunset)

and to stretch a bit;)

Epilepsy due to head injuries?
Failed pregnancies due to rapid changes in atmospheric pressure?

[edit to acknowledge 1.5kg of fragments] I think I've seen ice sculptures take a couple of days to melt even in the summer, and the total mass of the meteor fragments (which could come from multiple stones) is not inconsistent with large hail.

I think we need a rock-solid translation before we go any further. They don't call it meteorology for nothing smile.gif


Tax evasion is a crime.
Tax avoidance is a national pastime.
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