by Tristan Rayner in Exhale on Friday 4 April 2014

Nowegian Anders Helstrup has captured one of the most astonishing moments in skydiving history – clear footage of a thumping great meteor whooshing past him at 300km/hr, all on video. Take a look and be astonished – and we’ll give you some facts.

Helstrup jumped from a small plane that had taken off from from Østre Æra Airport in Hedmark.

Wearing a wing suit and with two cameras fixed to his helmet, he released his parachute.

On the way down he realised something had happened. (Keep watch around the 30 second mark)

It’s incredible that he would see it, and amazing that if the wind has blown slightly differently that day, or he’d jumped a moment earlier, he might just have been obliterated in what would be one of the most unlikely events of all time (more analysis on that further down).

Fact pack:

As a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it slows down through friction with the atmospheric air, and ionises molecules around it. At night and in the day if the fire is very bright, this blazing track across the sky is what is commonly called a meteor.

When the light disappears, as the meteorite slows due to resistance in the air, it enters a stage called ‘dark flight’. It then no longer travels at an angle, but falls straight down. This is what we see here.

Meteorite rock close-up

Meteorite rock close-up

The rock we see isn’t hot. Remember, the rock has been hurtling through the depths of space, completely frozen in the interstellar cold. The heat on the rock is on the surface only, and fades quickly. The cold remains. It’s a little like fried icecream.

Just how likely is it that this would happen?
Around 500 meteorites reach the Earth’s surface each year, with many thousands more burning up before reaching the ground.

In an average five-minute skydive, we can say there’s around a 0.48 per cent chance a meteorite lands anywhere on Earth while you skydive. But now we factor in that it has to be close to you. And we can say that should be a bubble that’s around a five metre radius, or 10-metre diameter.

A circle with a 5-metre radius has an area of 79m², so factoring in the size of the Earth, around 6.5 trillion of these circles fit on the surface of the Earth.

Although this math isn’t perfect, we can say comfortably that there is a 7.32 x 10-14 per cent chance of a meteorite passing you while you’re skydiving. Seven hundredths of a trillionth of a per cent. Winning the lottery is far, far easier!

Here’s the full video and complete story, as told to NRK:

(Images via NRK)