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The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"The hole had been caused by an electricity cable short-circuiting"
 real 56k

Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 16:06 GMT
No space rocks in York
Crater PA
The "impact" made a big hole
For a few hours on Thursday, the city of York in the UK thought it had been hit by a rock from space.

It all started when North Yorkshire police were called to the Hopgrove area of the city after a local woman, Silvia Mercer, said she had heard a rush of air and a loud explosion while she had been out walking her dogs.

Armageddon it was not, but Mrs Mercer was certainly terrified: "It was a bit of a shock," she said. "I thought my last moments had come. I was very shaken."

Police PA
Police set up a cordon while the event was investigated
She discovered a hole in the ground that measured about 15 centimetres (six inches) across and just under a metre (three feet) deep, leading some to speculate she had found the impact crater from a falling meteoroid.

The police cordoned off the area and even called in the bomb squad. For a while, it was said a hot, smouldering meteorite lay at the bottom of the hole.

But after a day's investigation, the real story emerged. The event that frightened the life out of Mrs Mercer was not a falling space rock but the small explosion caused by a short circuit in an underground electricity cable.

The truth is a little disappointing. A meteorite find would have been a big event. The last recorded find on the UK mainland was nearly 10 years ago.

In 1991, civil servant Arthur Pettifor recovered a 767-g (27 oz) lump of space rock that hit a hedge in his garden in Glatton, near Peterborough.

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08 Sep 00 | Festival of science
Rare space rock in British lab
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