A multiple frame picture of the rock  falling, taken from a video taken during a skydive in 2012. Credit and copyright: Anders Helstrup, used by permission.

Norwegian Skydiver Almost Gets Hit by Falling Meteor — and Captures it on Film

3 Apr , 2014 by

It sounds like a remarkable story, almost unbelievable: Anders Helstrup went skydiving nearly two years ago in Hedmark, Norway and while he didn’t realize it at the time, when he reviewed the footage taken by two cameras fixed to his helmet during the dive, he saw a rock plummet past him. He took it to experts and they realized he had captured a meteorite falling during its “dark flight” — when it has been slowed by atmospheric braking, and has cooled and is no longer luminous.

UPDATE: See our new article on this topic: Follow Up on Skydiving Meteorite: Crowdsourcing Concludes it Was Just a Rock

Respected Norwegian astrophysicist Pål Brekke confirmed to Universe Today that the story is true and the video is authentic. “I was part of the investigation – and kept secret for two years – in hope of finding the meteorite,” Brekke said via a conversation on Twitter.

Since the search for the meteorite has come up empty so far, Helstrup’s story and video has been released in an effort to recruit more people to look for the rock — and to confirm that this actually was a meteorite.

“It has been a little hard to keep it as a secret,” Helstrup told Universe Today via email, “but everyone has been loyal to the project and helped us out!”

Here’s the video:

The rock zooms by at about :15 in this video:

You can watch a slower version in the video below.

Helstrup has been searching with friends, family and volunteers after getting advice from experts from the Geological Museum in Oslo, Norwegian Space Centre and Norwegian meteor network, making painstaking efforts to pinpoint the location of where the meteorite fell.

“The meteorite has for sure some possible hiding spots,” Helstrup said. “There is a forest with lots of different places it can easily disappear. Even if there is several areas where it would be found easily, there is a river, some marshy spots and areas and lots of high grass. Therefore the best chance of a finding would be in springtime. But we have high hopes!”

Finding the rock would provide the definitive confirmation it really was a space rock that Helstrup captured on film. There’s been much debate about the veracity of both the video and the claim (read Phil Plait’s look at the evidence) but in fact, it is Helstrup who might be most skeptical this was a meteor. There are experts, however, who say there is no doubt.

“It can’t be anything else,” said geologist Hans Amundsen, quoted in the Norwegian publication NRK. “The shape is typical of meteorites – a fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded.”

He added that the meteorite may have been part of a larger rock that had exploded perhaps 20 kilometers above Helstrup.

What if the rock would have hit Helstrup or his diving partner? Amundson said the rock would have cut him in half.

“Imagine a 5 kilo rock hitting you in the chest at 300 kilometers per hour,” Amundson says in the video. “That would have led to quite an accident investigation.”

This is unique because — if confirmed — this is the first time a meteor in dark flight has been captured on film.

“Fireballs entering the atmosphere have been filmed many times,” says Morten Bilet in the video. Bilet is a meteorite expert. “This is unique because it was filmed during its so called “dark flight” – after it has been burned out. That’s never been done before so this is something new and exciting.”

We’ve asked Helstrup to keep us posted on any developments in this story or if the meteorite is found.

You can read more about the story from NRK, and the Norwegian Space Center, and the Norwegian Meteorite Society.

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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
suddengenesis
Member
April 3, 2014 8:34 PM

This video’s meteorite
Was taken amidst its dark flight
Skydivers beware
It wouldn’t fight fair
Velocity augments its might

astroglen
Member
astroglen
April 3, 2014 9:00 PM

I think in the video the rock passed at :15

Aqua4U
Member
April 4, 2014 1:56 AM

Geeze…. What are the odds of _that_ ever happening again? Prettay close to zero, eh? Begs the question: Do you think something similar has happened before? Maybe even knocked an airplane out of the sky? We’d never know!

This is truely amazing… I hope this wasn’t a set up or prank…. because it’s just TOO COOL!

Gnark1ll
Member
Gnark1ll
April 4, 2014 2:45 AM

Well…to apply Occams razor…Is it not more likely that this was a rock or pebble that fell out of the chute when it was deployed?

The timing of its appearance as the chute unfurls is rather too close for comfort when arguing the case for identifying this object as of extra terrestrial origin.

I hope they find it and that it does indeed turn out to be an extraordinary video…but really…what is more likely? : D

Mid air near miss with meteorite, or a rock that got caught up in the parachute rig when it was being packed, and fell out on deployment?

squidgeny
Member
squidgeny
April 4, 2014 8:03 AM

I’m guessing the video analysis rules that possibility out.

Also I’d expect that parachutes are packed a little more carefully than that – after all someone’s life depends on it – and I can’t imagine a rock of that size casually sneaking in.

Dav_Daddy
Member
April 4, 2014 8:38 AM
I don’t know he may be on to something. It doesn’t look so big as for it to be impossible to not be noticed in a parachute that has been folded over a few times. Also to my eye on the video it doesn’t look fast enough. It’s impossible to tell from the few frames it’s in but it may have actually been speeding up? As if the unfurling of chute kicked up into a steep parabola arc that comes down right by the guy. I’d imagine people far smarter than myself have already considered that and ruled it out? But maybe not it could be a little wishful thinking on their part too, if they ever find… Read more »
Gnark1ll
Member
Gnark1ll
April 4, 2014 9:27 PM
Well chutes are often packed on the floor…usually of course in a hangar, but almost always on the floor. Sure its done carefully, but not SO carefully that they couldnt miss a pretty good sized stone getting caught up in the canopy. Although Im no expert, I did complete 9 jumps so I could wear a fancy winged badge during my military career. Part of this did include packing chutes, and there are stages of the process that can involve feet/shoes coming into contact with the canopy, more accurately kneeling on it, rather than standing on it…but which could easily result in foreign objects being introduced.. Im sure there are videos on youtube demonstrating parachute packing…You will notice… Read more »
mike789
Member
mike789
April 5, 2014 11:54 AM
“well, there is no way to measure the scale of the object in this video.” While we can’t measure it without knowing the camera and lens type, but we can make some educated assumptions and guesses. If it was very close to the lens we would not have seen it in numerous frames, it would have passed through the field of view too quickly. It also would have had to go through the chute. He reports no holes in the chute. Pebble, stone or good sized rock, they all have pretty much the same terminal velocity, and the terminal velocity is reached quickly. It would have needed to clear the chute either way. Ergo, it was not close… Read more »
squidgeny
Member
squidgeny
April 10, 2014 4:38 AM
I’ve never packed a parachute, so I’ll defer to your experience on that one! Sorry if my comment seemed dismissive – not my intention – but your comment itself seemed a little dismissive to me given the video was analysed by a geologist who noted features on the rock consistent with a meteorite. That said, it’s good to be skeptical and the article certainly made no mention of the possibility the rock was packed with the parachute, which is something of a glaring omission given that every possibility ought to be discussed! So with that in mind I think my comment *was* too dismissive of your own. Anyway thanks for the followup comment, you make good points. The… Read more »
mike789
Member
mike789
April 5, 2014 11:09 AM
Did the rock hover in the air for a few seconds? Unless the rock is styrofoam or pumice, the rock has a much faster terminal velocity then a human does. And the rock would have been falling at the same rate as the skydiver. The camera uses a wide angle lens. That’s a fair size rock, it would have made a good lump in the packed chute. It would have been noticed. It is possible that it was pre-arranged and someone on the plane tossed it out the door, but that would have been reckless and dangerous as hell for the skydiver and would have passed the skydiver early in the jump, so unless the plane turned around… Read more »
Gnark1ll
Member
Gnark1ll
April 10, 2014 1:41 PM

When are you going to do the follow up article that shows I was right all along and that this was simply a stone that got packed up into the chute?

I wouldnt normally care that much, but SO many people seem to have gone mad and thought this was a meteorite, that I have to say I was quite surprised, especially with the users of this site being almost always pretty logical and smart.

TonyInTsv
Member
TonyInTsv
April 6, 2014 4:58 AM

OK so you have applied Ockham’s Razor (note correct spelling, as the phrase was coined by William Ockham and punctuation) Now apply Newton’s first law of motion.

The rock appears as the parachute is opening, so Anders wouldn’t have decelerated that much yet. So how, assuming the rock was in the chute, would it have accelerated so quickly?

Ockham’s razor can’t be used to get around physics.

Gnark1ll
Member
Gnark1ll
April 10, 2014 1:31 PM

Well turns out I was right.

Gnark1ll
Member
Gnark1ll
April 10, 2014 1:43 PM

Oh and I think you will find that they werent particularly strict with how their names were spelt back then.

Nevermind the fact that it is spelt ‘Occam’ virtually everywhere…but since I was right about the ‘meteorite’ Ill give you the spelling correction (Ill keep using ‘Occam’ like everyone else though).

Pete
Member
Pete
April 4, 2014 11:02 AM

I’ll buy almost any explanation except that it was a meteorite. Shouldn’t a space rock still be blazing hot and shedding pieces? “Dark flight” indeed.
What was his altitude? How many frames per second was his video camera shooting? The report leaves out a lot of information that you’d think they would use to buttress their argument.
I like your stone in the parachute theory, Gnark! It is definitely small enough to be missed when packing the chute.

me
Member
me
April 5, 2014 11:32 PM

No. If a meteorite were to land on your lawn, while you’re standing there, it would be cold. After all, it has been ‘floating around’ in deep space for hundreds of thousands of years. A few seconds ripping through the atmosphere will vapourize the exterior but the rock itself would still be cold to the touch. “Shedding pieces”? Once it has slowed to terminal velocity most if not all of the ‘pieces’ have already separated.
“Dark flight” means that it is no longer traveling fast enough to “blaze”. Facts.
Even the experts are more convinced of it being a meteor than the guy who almost died by it.

whathaway
Member
whathaway
April 4, 2014 8:37 PM
Look At The Evidence. Forget all pre-conceived notions. Ignore experts, authority and posted opinions. The third video on the NRK site – the one that is 1 min 17 sec. At about 26 seconds the opened parachute appears. Look at the red colored panel. Watch the dark spots silhouetted thereon. Does at least one appear to move frame to frame? About the size of a rock? Follow to the path of the falling object a second later. The diver dismissed his first thought – something from the parachute packing as he claimed it was too big. There Is Nothing To Determine the True Size. All assumptions of mass, size, speed, nature – cannot support this claim. The only… Read more »
mike789
Member
mike789
April 5, 2014 12:57 PM
” There Is Nothing To Determine the True Size. ” True size, yes. How about approximate size? And we could certainly figure out how fast a pebble is falling after falling the distance of a chute to the diver. We can compare a pebble to it’s size on a camera and see if it matches what the video shows. We can also ask why it takes seven seconds for the rock to fall from the chute to the diver after the chute opens. There is also the information below which can be taken into account. Field of view. Depth of field. Time to cross field of view. Terminal velocity. (a 1 gram stone falls the same speed as… Read more »
andrey
Member
andrey
April 6, 2014 9:50 AM

For me it looks ridiculous too.

First – probability of the event. How many webcams exist watching the garages and the backyards 24×7. I never ever heard about any video with close-by meteorite hit. From my estimation, the ‘meteorite-jumper flyby’ should be one-in-the-civilization-lifespan event smile.

Second, I used to climb some mountain walls and have heard fist-sized runaway rocks which had speed close to the discussed ‘terminal velocity’. The remarkable ‘shrapnel’ sound is quite loud and it the parachute guy should definitely didn’t miss it.

Forty
Member
Forty
April 6, 2014 3:28 PM

Don’t know if I should laugh or cry. There are experts on this story since 2 years, and some comment trolls know after 2 minutes that the dumb skydiver packed a rock in his parachute. Why not, happens all the time. In a world of non-experts who never ever packed a chute in their boring life.

tonikeys
Member
tonikeys
April 6, 2014 6:32 PM

That looks way more like a pure iron meteorite to me! (Not breccia.) Especially if you look at the closeup video of it on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htX0doO_syU

wreckhur
Member
wreckhur
April 6, 2014 10:27 PM
I liked the people commenting on scientific facts, rather than the “I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express” crowd. Your minimal experience really doesn’t lend any credence to your argument. While we can’t know for sure what kind of camera it was exactly, it looked suspiciously like a Go Pro cam or something similar. Most of these cams are wide field of view, this would appear to rule out the pebble idea. That takes us back to the fist sized “rock”. I have packed more than a few chutes. Actually without looking at logs, I have lost count and with a whole lot of jumps under my belt… I have never seen a fist size rock appear in… Read more »
Michael Colby
Member
Michael Colby
April 7, 2014 9:49 AM

Those tricky leprechaun are always trying to confuse the scientific community. Gotta stay alert these days, you know?

whathaway
Member
whathaway
April 7, 2014 10:30 PM
My apologies if someone else already posted this but it is too good to pass up. Sir James Dewar (1842-1923), in 1892: “Minds are like parachutes – they only function when they are open.” Now that we’ve crossed that bridge … a few comments. The web page has this: “The front camera is a Contour VholdR recording in 1080p30. Try their website for specs. It’s 110 degrees IIRC 135 degrees. The back camera is a GoPro Hero2 recording in 720p50. To estimate the size not just as a function of distance, you also need to know its relative speed, which is not known precisely.” And: “The camera mounted on the front side of the helmet records in 1080p30… Read more »
wreckhur
Member
wreckhur
April 14, 2014 6:11 PM

Obviously sarcasm is the wrong approach here. Maybe I should have worded my first statement differently. Perhaps I thought amongst intelligent individuals I would find a similar sense of humor and that those using non-scientific theories would fail to comprehend my sleights. Apologies on my miscalculation, I will forthwith only speak in blunt terms.

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