Fusion Christ

By Phil Plait | March 26, 2009 9:48 am
Boguslavka meteorite

The Pravda — the Russian newspaper whose name translates as "stuff we just make up" — has an article today about a meteorite found in Russia almost a century ago that has an image of Jesus in it.

As you can see, it’s actually not that bad a case of pareidolia. The image on the left is the so-called Shroud of Turin, the long-debunked cloth that people erroneously think has the face of Jesus in it. Right away that gives you a sense of the level of accuracy of the Pravda article (of course, the article in the sidebar with a picture of Viveca Fox in a bikini labeled "The chocolate side of Hollywood" gives you even a better sense of their journalistic integrity).

Anyway, the meteorite is real enough. It fell in eastern Russia in 1916, and is called — and you just simply have to love this — Boguslavka. The total mass that hit was 256 kilos, which is a substantial fall.

It’s a nickle-iron meteorite (and very very pretty!) with what looks to me to be a very tight metallic crystal pattern called the Widmanstätten pattern; some have large structures in them and some very thin ones. You can find this by slicing the meteorite and getting a flat surface which is then washed with a weak solution of nitric acid; the crystal pattern then pops right out. It can also leave other patterns in the surface, which I strongly suspect is what we’re seeing here, as opposed to an image of, say, Jesus.

Sikhote Alin meteorite that looks like a skull

I have several meteorites myself, and since they tend to have slightly randomized shapes, of course you can see faces and other things in them. One of my favorites is the one shown here, a Sikhote-Alin fragment that also fell in Russia, in 1947. They’re well-known for having a blue-black color on the outside, called the fusion crust, from the heat of blasting through the Earth’s atmosphere. Mine’s about the size of the tip of my thumb, and has a rounded top because it spun as it came in, forming a nosecone or bullet shape. And while it doesn’t look like Jesus, it does bear a strong resemblance to a skull.

And from another angle, well, it looks just like Darth Vader. Some people see their religious icons in random patterns, and some see movie icons. I guess it just depends on how you were raised.

Comments (45)

  1. Skeptic

    “Boguslavka” is indeed funny in English, given this context. But in Russian, “bog” is the Russian word for “god”.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Todd W.

    I see an old Norse guy with a nice ‘stache and beard and one eye in shadow.

  3. Disclaimer

    Boguslavka roughly translates to “glory to the god”, or something.

  4. Randall

    Actually, that second picture you have there looks more like the top half of a skull to me. I guess that’s fairly similar to Darth Vader, only even more macabre.

  5. Wth! I enter the site and on the side bar is this:

    http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/12-03-2009/107223-america_next_catastrophe-0

    Has the author ever visit Mexico? He describes it as a movie war zone. He even says it will be in full blown war by this summer! As a mexican, I can’t tell you there are a lot of problems related to organize crime and drugs, but what this guy says is literally like 100 times worse. What an idiot.

  6. MarshallDog

    This is actually the first time I’ve ever seen the Shourd of Turin. It looks a lot like the cover of John Entwhistle’s “Smash Your Head Against the Wall”. Is it really the greatest Christian relic as Pravda claims?

    And I disagree, it’s a terrible case of pareidolia. I just can’t make myself see a face in that meteorite. It’s hardly identical to the shroud as the “scientists” from the article claim.

  7. Yeah I was thinking Darth Vader (or at least Dark Helmet) before I finished reading the post ;)

  8. Joe Meils

    Actually, that’s not Jesus… it’s Alfred Packer! (semi famous canibal from Colorado)

  9. Darth Vader just a movie icon? I find your lack of faith disturbing.

  10. “I see an old Norse guy with a nice ’stache and beard and one eye in shadow.”

    hmmm, Odin, maybe?

  11. “And while it doesn’t look like Jesus, it does bear a strong resemblance to a skull. ”

    What? Jesus didn’t have a skull? It’s a sign, I tell you! A sign that we must repent!

  12. Justin Wagner

    I see what’s really going on here. Pravda used to be the official daily newspaper of the Communist party, which Lenin used to submit articles to. The very same Lenin that you saw on your shower curtain! Conspiracy alert!

  13. Lawdogg

    I was disappointed not to be able to find the chocolate side of Hollywood, but they made up for it with a hard hitting photo essay entitled “Vida Guerra: FHM’s lingerie model known for her large derriere’

  14. That’s not a skull… It’s an Etruscan helmet.

  15. The Russian meteorite looks more like some of those disturbing Scandinavian renditions of Santa Claus figures. Yours, though, is totally Vadar. Brutal.

  16. The Mad LOLScientist, FCD

    I thought it was in iron-NICKEL meteorite. As for the Shroud and the sliced meteorite, obviously they’re both avant-garde musician Louis “Moondog” Hardin. http://www.sfbg.com/blogs/music/moondog2.jpg

  17. Aaron Luchko

    Ha! I wasn’t really paying attention and thought the image on the left was from the meteorite.

    I though “Wow! That actually is a pretty damn good likeness!”

  18. That bottom image reminds me of Phantom of the Opera.

    Pravda means “truth”. Make of it what you will.

  19. I have a chunk of the Campo del Cielo meteorite but alas, it has no faces in it.

    Mostly, people pick it up and say “wow this is heavy” (it’s 1.7 kg), to which I reply “well, it is a chunk of solid iron.” Weird googly-eyed stares usually follow, and then a little discussion about “and these just fall out of the sky… cool.”

    Of the people I know who have seen it, most of them think of meteorites as stony, not as chunks of metal.

  20. LO'Neill

    Looks sort of like a trilobite to me.

  21. Reverend J

    I dunno, I think your meteorite looks more like the T-1000 after being shot by a shotgun.

  22. Albert B.

    Strange indeed. Judging from the meteorite, Jesus must have had some really big nostrils and what must have been some pretty fashionable sunglasses too for those days.

    In another picture of the thing..
    http://www.encyclopedia-of-meteorites.com/test/Boguslavka_don_edwards.JPG
    ..as you turn your head 45 degrees counterclockwise (or rotate the picture) you can see a cyclops next to an enormous penis or perhaps it could be a naked lady with a somewhat displaced navel and her arms held high, holding up some dark cloudy thing. Could be a bowl of grapes for the cyclops or maybe a cosmic message for a Boguslavkan scientist.

  23. Magnus

    They also have a photo report on “France unveils secret images of aliens and their spaceships.” Oh my!

  24. I see the Statue of Liberty sticking up from the sands of a beach from the end of Planet of the Apes.

    No, really.

  25. I think it looks more like Christopher Lee

  26. Jim Ernst

    Rotate 45 degrees, and I see Jesus giving me the finger!

    Take that skeptics! I am here!

  27. NewEnlandBob

    That’s not Jesus.

    It’s Darth Vader!!!

  28. Brady

    OK, I have had it with the journalistic integrity of BOTH Pravda and this site! First of all, that is not Jesus – it is George Washington in profile. Clearly, a sign from our alien overlords that America rocks and Russia is the stinky cheese man whose attempts at communism would fail horribly. There is no other possible interpretation.

    But that’s not the worst error in this story. This site, run by the heathen Phil Plait, is once again pushing their false idolatry. Obviously, the second meteor is *not* Darth Vader. It is obviously California’s Gubinator, back when he was a flesh-covered cyborg of doom. This is obvious and not up for debate. Given this overwhelming evidence, I demand a retraction and apology from both Pravda and Phil Plait. And maybe a nice MLT, where the mutton is nice and lean.

  29. Phil:
    Boguslavka does not display a Widmanstätten pattern. It is a Hexaedrite: only Octaedrites show Widmanstätten patterning.

    The very fine lines in a Hexaedrite are called ‘Neumann lines’. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neumann_lines)

  30. MadScientist

    Awesome, but that’s obviously the iron mask from Victor Hugo’s novel and the inspiration for the mask used by the Phantom of the Opera. It was created in space, obviously via Intelligent Design, and sent to earth as a message: Iron man is real!

  31. MadScientist

    Actually the lines in that meteorite remind me of the Hermit in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

  32. Funny. I see Tux. But then I’m a Linux guy.

  33. llewelly

    Phil! That ‘meteorite’ you’ve got is obviously the crania of an alien! Perhaps even the very personage who carved the Face On Mars! Or the builder of Mount Rushmore! I can’t believe you’d show it off so shamelessly, revealing that you are in cahoots with the NASA folk who are Hiding The Truth About UFOs!!!

  34. roland303

    That meteorite is the chocolate side of the Universe, if you catch my drift . ….

  35. I wonder if other intelligent species have a similar weakness to simulacra?

  36. Wendy

    I saw Darth Vader the instant I looked at that pic.

  37. Going through some old photos of mine I just came across a fairly good pareidolia face in my own kitchen window. Click my name and scroll down the page a bit to find the link.

    I reckon it’s a fairly accurate (but oversized) likeness of Mad’s Alfred E. Neuman staring out of my window!

  38. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    My father will love this, he likes to get his rocks off the ground, amateur mineralogist as he has become.

    of course, the article in the sidebar with a picture of Viveca Fox in a bikini labeled “The chocolate side of Hollywood” gives you even a better sense of their journalistic integrity

    I got Imogen Thomas. But I think clicking through “Read more” only to get an embiggened image instead of an actual text tells me the most.

  39. Spartan

    Wow, you own a few meteorites? For some reason I thought they were very expensive, but I guess it would be based on its size and what it’s composed of. I had thought that in the last year or so that I heard that one was sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I may very well have misheard that.

  40. Davros

    i see a Sleestack
    [IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v47/davros/sleestack.jpg[/IMG]

  41. Yup. Definitely Vader. Ben Kenobi’s going to be pissed.

  42. Davros

    ah i also suck at embedding

  43. Kevin

    @Spartan…

    The price of a meteorite depends on how rare it is. I’ve got a few that were relatively inexpensive, and a friend of mine bought me one – but he won’t tell me how much it set him back.

    @Phil – fif you read where they actually found meteorites from asteroid 2008 TC3?
    http://www.space.com/searchforlife/090326-seti-meteorite-find.html

  44. Robert Carnegie

    Of course that’s photographic negative of Shroud of Turin. Whatever the image was and is (medieval painting), it now comes up much more clearly in negative. I’ve also seen it done in 3-D.

    If we assume that Jesus encountered this meteorite (face first) when he ascended to heaven, can we now calculate where heaven is, because so far NASA isn’t doing too well at that. (However, there’s the memorable story where Dilbert visited the moon and found out that’s where women who dig engineers are taken. NASA ain’t stupid.)

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