Norwegian skydiver says meteorite nearly hit him: ‘The rock fell out of the sky.’

This story currently blowing up the Internet is so bizarre it’s hard to believe it happened. But Norwegian geologist Hans Amunsden says it did. So does skydiver Anders Helstrub, who has video to prove it.

On that day two years ago, Anders Helstrup thought it had to be something else.

Maybe it had come from a plane above. Maybe it had been lodged inside his buddy’s gear. No way, he thought, could it have been a meteorite. The statistical probability seemed beyond infinitesimal: that a softball-sized rock would plummet through the same speck of atmosphere that he, too, inhabited during a skydive. And that he would catch the whole thing on camera.

But that’s exactly what seems to have happened to Helstrup during a skydive, the news of which spread Thursday in this now-viral YouTube video.

Norwegian geologist Amunsden claims, “This is the first time in history that a meteorite has been filmed in the air after its light goes out.”

It was summer, 2012. Helstrup, a blond and bearded Norwegian with a daring sense of adventure, had just climbed into a skydive suit that made him look like a flying squirrel. He and several other members of the Oslo Parachute Club were preparing another jump over Hedmark, a region in central Norway. He had two cameras on his helmet: one to see forward, one for backward.

Twelve-thousand feet above ground, he jumped out of the plane, and released his parachute.

He fell for thousands of feet. Then, “I got the feeling that there was something, but I didn’t register what was happening. … Whoosh, and it’s gone.”

He landed at earth, sure something had happened in the sky, but unsure of what. It had been too fast.

Immediately, he checked the film and saw it: a meteorite.

“So the rock fell out of the sky?” a Norwegian reporter with NRK asked him.

“I’d say so.”

“We’d thought of all the possibilities,” he continued. “Like could it have been something packed in the equipment? Or something falling from the plane? Or something belonging to other flyers? But I’m flying in front of [one flyer] … and all the [other] flyers are below us, and the plane’s about to land. There was nothing above me or near me.”

Local meteorologists geeked out when they saw the footage.

“It can’t be anything else,” Amunsden told NRK. “The shape is typical of meteorites – a fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded.”

Amunsden said the stone appeared to have traveled from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

“If you had jumped out [of the plane] a second later,” he told Helstrup,” you’d be dead. It would have cut [you] in half.”

He added: “That would have led to quite an accident investigation.”

But why is the tale just coming out now?

“I was part of the investigation,” said Pal Brekke, a Norwegian astrophysicist, via Twitter, “and kept [it] secret for two years – in hope of finding the meteorite.”

They haven’t yet.

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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