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Sunday, August 23, 1998 Published at 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Stones from the skies

Meteors and comets have been worshipped for centuries

In Turkmenistan, the fall of two meteorites within a month is being seen as a holy happening, causing a flurry of interest in the small desert state.

The latest fell on a village just over 100km from the site of the first, reportedly crashing through the roof of a house.

News of the second meteorite, which fell at the end of July, is only just emerging as villagers refused to report the incident.

[ image: Most meteorites weigh less than a kilo]
Most meteorites weigh less than a kilo
They believed the small object from the skies, weighing about a kilogramme, to have religious significance.

It has been taken to the capital, Ashkhabad, for study by scientists.

The second "holy stone" follows the fall of one of the largest individual meteorites in history - weighing 820 kilogrammes - near a spiritual site in eastern Turkmenistan.

The BBC Central Asia Correspondent, Louise Hidalgo, says Turkmens hailed its arrival near the old capital of the ancient state of Khorezm as an auspicious event as it coincided with the sixth anniversary of the election of their leader, President Niyazov.

Witnesses who saw the meteorite fall spoke of a bright light and tremendous noise, and earth tremors which were felt up to a 100km away.

And the meteorite, now on show in a museum, is to be named "leader of the Turkmens" in honour of the president.

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