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.


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