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The Planet Earth:
Did Christianity Benefit From a Meteorite?

Crater lake in the Sirente plain landscape - photo by Jens Ormö in SGF and NEODyS
Crater lake in the Sirente plain
click to enlarge SGF/NEODyS/Jens Ormö photo
Could a meteorite smashing into a valley in central Italy in AD 312 have benefitted the Christian church? A Swedish geology team thinks so, according to a report by the BBC.

The geologists were exploring a small crater lake in the Sirente plain. They determined that the round depression in the ground – Cratere del Sirente – had been created some 1,700 years earlier when a piece of rocky space debris dove down through Earth's atmosphere and hit the ground.

The falling rock originally had been part of a huge rock far beyond Earth &ndash an asteroid in deep space. That big object may have weighed a ton or more and probably had been circling the Sun for some 4.6 billion years.

When its path through the Solar System intersected the path of Earth, some of the debris trailing the big rock entered our atmosphere. One of those pieces hit the atmosphere at a speed of up to 70,000 mph. To those Romans on the ground beneath it, the meteorite would have looked like a bright flaming object in the sky, even in the daytime.

The piece would have struck Earth with the force of a small one-kiloton nuclear bomb, the geologists imagined. The result might have looked like a small nuclear blast, complete with a mushroom cloud of dust and violent shock-waves.

The geologists found the main crater surrounded by numerous small secondary craters gouged out by debris ejected when the rock smashed into the ground. They used modern radiocarbon dating to mark the crater's formation in the 4th century AD. Magnetic anomalies detected around the secondary craters probably were magnetic fragments from the meteorite.

But, how could that have affected the future course of Christianity? The geologists think the formation of the crater coincided with a celestial vision which church history recorded as having converted the future Roman emperor Constantine to Christianity.

They suggest Constantine witnessed the impressive meteorite event at noontime just before a decisive battle in the civil war with Maxentius for control of the Roman Empire. Old records say that he was praying when he saw a cross of light in the heavens, above the Sun, inscribed with "conquer by this." Constantine was said to be amazed as he and his army witnessed the "miracle." The event spurred them on to victory.

In the view of the Swedish geologists, Constantine, whose forces were outnumbered, saw the meteorite blazing across the sky as a sign and attributed his subsequent victory at the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber a few miles outside Rome to divine help from the Christian God. Later, he stopped the persecution of Christians and officially approved their religion.

Today, the plain where the meteorite hit is marked by a small crater lake.

To learn more about meteorites:
  • Meteorite impact 'saved Christianity' BBC

  • Constantine c.274-337

  • The discovery of the Sirente crater field

  • Impact Crater Found In Italy

  • Lesotho CIA World Factbook

  • Lesotho Resources African Studies Center, UPenn

  • Meteor caused Lesotho 'poltergeist' BBC

  • Meteor and Poltergeist Lesotho Daily

  • Committee for the Scientific Investigation
       of Claims of the Paranormal
       Poltergeist debunked - Skeptical Inquirer

  • American Association for Critical Scientific
       Investigation into Claimed Hauntings
       Poltergeist debunked - AACSICH
  • Meteorite vs. Meteor, Meteoroid and Micrometeoroid

  • Meteors, Meteorites and Impacts SEDS Nine Planets

  • Asteroid Comet Impact Hazards Website NASA

  • Near-Earth Object Program NASA

  • Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking NASA

  • Near Earth Objects Information Centre U.K.

  • Evidence of second huge meteor impact Scotsman

  • Meteorites Recovered Far Shores News

  • Turkmenistan News Net

  • Guide to Turkmenistan Lonely Planet

  • Perspectives on Central Asia

  • Astronomes Amateurs du Luxembourg AAL

  • The Daily Grail TDG

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