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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Meteor caused Lesotho 'poltergeist'
By David Ambrose
BBC Focus On Africa magazine

Piece of the meteorite
Some 400 mystery rocks were collected
An outbreak of ghost activity that struck Lesotho last year has been found to have been the result of a spectacular meteor shower.

On 21 July, a loud noise in the sky was heard over most of the country.

Then in the village of Boqate Ha Sofonia, objects began to fall on the roofs of houses.

'Malino Mantsoe, one of the village residents, saw a large stone smash into the low-walled cooking area in front of her house, before knocking over and cracking a plastic container.

She blamed a "thokolosi" - a poltergeist - and sprinkled holy water around her house and on the stone. No more stones fell.

'Matukule Khoeletsana, another resident, also had stones bounce on her roof - and kept them to prove it was no bad dream.

Investigation

Now the cause of the mystery rocks has been found to have been a meteorite.

A rock weighing perhaps a tonne, which had been circling the sun for 4,600 million years, had finally intercepted another body in the solar system - the Earth.

It arrived at perhaps 50 to 100 times the speed of sound, and hitting the atmosphere at this speed, exploded into thousands of pieces which had fallen to earth over nine different villages.

A team from the National University of Lesotho went to investigate, and with the help of schoolchildren and local residents collected over 400 different stones ranging from just a few grams to over a kilogram.

There were a number of champion collectors, including a well-known local youth nicknamed Ramanaka, or "Father of Horns", because of his head-dress decorated with horns and a portrait of Nelson Mandela.

The Thuathe meteorite, as it has been christened, has ensured that Lesotho will now have a place in the science of meteoritics.

A full version of this article appears in the new edition of the Focus on Africa magazine..





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