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High-speed rock through ND window remains a mystery

The rock that Elsie Pierce found in her up stairs hallway that she now keeps in a class container.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

By Ryan Bakken / Grend Forks Herald

HATTON, N.D. — Elsie Pierce has a hole in her screen window, a hole in her glass window, a dent in her wall and splintered glass that appears as if it had spent time in a blender.

What she doesn’t have is an answer for what caused all of the above.

When the 89-year-old recently came home to discover the damage in the second-floor bathroom and a small rock mixed with the glass shards — none thicker than a strand of hair — she figured a meteorite had struck her rural home.

However, Mike Gaffey of the UND Space Studies Department said the damage-causing rock — an inch long and a half-inch wide — is granite. Meteorites that land on earth have a black, glassy surface from being heated as they come through the atmosphere.

Also, Gaffey said, meteorites fall at a steep vertical angle. At Pierce’s home, the projectile traveled a more horizontal path. But the arc of the damage indicates the rock couldn’t have been propelled from ground level.

And what about the splintered glass?

“I walked in the hallway carpet and, jeepers-creepers, my feet started hurting because I had tiny bits of glass in my socks,” Pierce said. “When I looked at the bottom of my socks, it looked like I had stepped in ashes.”

Gaffey said the condition of the glass indicates that the rock was moving very fast and “that’s what makes it intriguing.” The speed required to produce that damage might be able to be generated by man-made devices such as lawn mowers or potato guns, he said.

But there’s one thing he’s certain about. “The rock is terrestrial, not extraterrestrial,” he said.`

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