Experts Raise Eyebrows Over Meteoritic Origin Of Nicaraguan Crater

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On the evening of Saturday September 6, a 12-meter-wide (40 foot) crater appeared near the international airport of Nicaragua’s capital Managua. The timing appeared to coincide with the passing of an asteroid called 2014 RC which safely flew past Earth on September 7, leading many to believe that it may have been caused by a space rock impact. Local residents claim they heard a loud blast the same night, but no one saw anything.

According to Associated Press, a committee formed by the government to study the event attributed the crater to a “relatively” small meteorite that came off 2014 RC. However, not everyone is quite so convinced, and outside experts have started to share their skepticism over the apparent meteoritic source of the crater.

While it’s difficult to rule out a meteorite at this stage, according to NASA, the lack of eyewitnesses strongly suggests that something else is to blame. Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said that if a meteorite did cause the crater, it would have probably been around 1 meter (3 feet) wide. However, meteors of this size would usually appear very bright against the night sky, and not one of the 1.5 million people living in the capital saw any flashes.

“For something to produce a hole in the ground that big, it would have generated a very bright fireball. And nothing was reported… despite the population,” said Cooke. “So I’m very skeptical.”

And that’s not the only fishy feature of this situation. No meteorite fragments have been found at the scene so far. Even if the meteorite exploded in the air, producing a shockwave that carved out the crater, scientists would still expect to find remnants embedded in the soil. Furthermore, according to NASA scientists, the explosion occurred 13 hours before the close passage of the asteroid, when it was about as far away as the Moon, suggesting they are not linked.

“For those wondering, the event in Nicaragua (poss meteorite?) is unrelated to asteroid 2014 RC. Different timing, different directions,” NASA officials tweeted.

So, unfortunately at this stage it seems there is a big question mark over this mysterious crater, but we can be fairly confident that 2014 RC is not to blame. 

[Via space.com, Guardian, and Associated Press]

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