Despite some initial skepticism, which suggested the huge crater found on September 15 in Peru could be the result of other phenomena, local scientists confirmed this Tuesday that it was indeed caused by a meteorite.
According to José Macharé, of the Institute of Geology, “soon after the first observations made in the spot we verified that it was a rock meteorite … if definitely is a meteorite”, he told AFP (shorter version in English here). He further noted that “it seems that the meteorite fell and heated the water, making it boil for ten minutes and mixing it with the soil (which may have sulfur and arsenic in low concentrations), liberating a grey vapor, whose components we still don’t know about”. That could explain the much reported illnesses described both by locals and even some local authorities that visited the place.
Furthermore, engineer Renán Ramírez, of the Peruvian Institute of Nucelar Energy, assured that there is no abnormal radioation in the area. Like Macharé he suggested the illnesses may have been caused by the fumes coming from the heat generated by the impact boiling the water in the soil. It’s probably not related to the meteorite itself.
But this whole ongoing story sure sparked a lot of interest. Among many wild speculations, one of the most curious was aired by WDIM:
American Spy Satellite Downed In Peru As US Nuclear Attack On Iran Thwarted
Russian Military Intelligence Analysts are reporting today that one of the United States most secretive spy satellites, the KH-13, targeting Iran was ‘destroyed in its orbit’ with its main power generator powered by the radioactive isotope Pu-238 surviving re-entry and crashing in a remote region of the South American Nation of Peru, and where hundreds are reported to be ill from radiation poisoning.
Western media reports are stating that the US spy satellite debris hitting Peru was caused by a meteor …
Most astonishing about these reports, however, are that they state that it was the Americans themselves who destroyed their own spy satellite with the attack upon it being made by the United States Air Forces’ 30th Space Wing located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
As reported above, there is in fact no abnormal radiation readings in the area, and multiple different institutions and local experts analyzing the site agree that it was a meteorite. The WDIM website is full of similarly unsupported claims.
Related to it, some days before the Peruvian meteorite, James Oberg had pointed in the Whispers list a crater in Kazakhstan that was actually man-made, though not intentional:
A Proton/Breeze M rocket, carrying the JCSAT-11 comsat for JSAT Corp. of Tokyo, Japan, blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Sept. 6, 2007. The launch vehicle’s second stage failed to separate, and one of the engines on the rocket had not functioned properly, leading to the termination of the flight at T+135 seconds, as vehicle was 76 kilometers above the Earth surface.
The failed rocket impacted in an uninhabited area, resulting in explosion and several fires in the grasslands, however it caused no casualties or property damage. A disinfecting group arrived to the impact site, discovering two or three fragments estimated at 400 kilograms in mass, according to Kazakh officials.
It was estimated that at the moment of the crash, the remnants of the rocket still contained 218 tons and 979 kilograms of toxic propellant. The main impact crater was estimated to be 20 meters deep and 45 meters in diameter. [source]
Bigger than the Peruvian crater. So, space junk is interesting, but as everyone pointed out, nothing beats space zombies.
UPDATE: Phil Plait suggests the Peruvian crater may have been actually the result of a Scud missile, which the Peruvian government is rumored to have obtained. Well, that’s a much more reasonable speculation than a nuclear ultra-secret American satellite.
But I don’t know. All those scientists would have to be part of the “conspiracy”, and the Scud missile would have to have created one hell of a explosion. More than 200 tons of propellant created the 45m crater in Kazakhstan.
The Peruvian crater has 30 meters, and though it does resemble the Kazakh one, a Scud missile has a launch weight of some few tons, and a warhead of less than a ton. It’s more interesting than mere space junk, surely.
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