The guest speaker at the October monthly meeting of Keighley Astronomical society was Mr Russell Parry from the village of Appley Bridge near Wigan. In September 2014 he published a book on a local event which occurred 100 years earlier on the 13th October 1914. He opened his presentation with film footage of the Chelyabinsk meteorite which landed in Russia in 2013 and was reported to be travelling at 17.5 km per second.
It is one of only four officially recognised and well documented meteorite falls in this country in the past century. William Frederick Denning F.R.A.S. (1848 – 1931), a past President of Liverpool Astronomical Society (1887 – 1888), played a key role in the scientific study of the meteorite.
Mr Parry explained that on the night of the fall residents of the village were startled by the appearance of a bright fireball in the sky and a series of loud explosions. War had recently been declared and people feared that this was an enemy attack by a Zeppelin or an aeroplane dropping bombs on the nearby army camp at Winstanley. The fireball was seen by hundreds of people in the area as it lit up the sky travelling in a north westerly direction.
Reports were also received from people who observed the fireball in Liverpool and as far as Stoke on Trent. For many weeks after the event people genuinely feared for their lives anticipating another such supposed attack. The following morning the meteorite was found in a field close to Halliwell Farm near to the village.
Two gentlemen, one an employee of the farm, were out shooting when an upturned mound of earth caught their eye. On investigation they discovered the meteorite, embedded in the earth, in a hole approximately two feet across and eighteen inches deep. They described the meteorite as a dark mass which was broken into two pieces.
Mr Parry continued the story of the object over the next days, months and years. It’s incarceration by the local constabulary. It was of course released without charge and moved to the Manchester Technical School. A small section was on display in the village shop for many years. It was stored by many years in the Natural history museum. It has been dissected and examined. Samples are now housed with several science intuitions around the world. Including a sample held in Moscow.
Mr Parry brought several examples of meteorites for the society members to view, including a small and precious sample of the Appley Bridge object, which he has on loan from the Natural History museum.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Mr Parry answered several questions from society members. He also sold several copies of his published book on the story.