posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 02:35 PM
March 28, 2008 Providence, Rhode Island - It was 11:45 AM on Saturday, September 15, 2007, when alpaca farmer, Justina Limache, heard a
“thunderous roar from the sky.” Scared, she grabbed her 8-year-old granddaughter and ran into her house. For the next few minutes, Justina heard
rocks raining down on the roof so loudly that she worried her house would collapse. What 74-year-old Justina Limache did not know was that a meteorite
had fallen near her home in Carancas, Peru, 62 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Puno and not far from Lake Titicaca. Carancas is a farm community
of about 2,000 people who raise cows, alpacas, llamas and other animals on the high Andean plateau near the Bolivian border.
The crater filled with ground water quickly and first news reports stated that several animals were hurt and at least two hundred residents near the
impact suffered headaches, nausea and breathing problems after inhaling “toxic fumes” emitted from the impact crater. Back in September 2007, I
interviewed Jose Machare, Science Doctorate and Geological Engineer in the Geology, Mining and Metallurgical Institute in Lima. He was trying to
understand what the meteorite was made of, whether the crater water was contaminated with arsenic or other substance that might have sickened people
and animals, and whether there might still be a meteoritic fragment at the bottom of the water-filled crater.
Now in March 2008 at the NASA Lunar and Planetary Institute Conference in Houston, Peter Schultz, Ph.D., Prof. of Geological Sciences who specializes
in impact cratering at Brown University, presented his first field research in Carancas from December 2007. Prof. Schultz reported to the conference
that he and his graduate student measured the crater to be 50 feet in diameter and on average 6 feet deep. The meteorite debris was stoney H4H5
chondrite, not metallic iron that might be expected to punch a hole in the earth. The stoney meteorite came in from the east and sprayed some debris
to the west as much as 656 feet (200 meters) away.
The Carancas, Peru, debris field indicates the rockey meteorite came hit the ground at about 15,000 miles per hour. Prof. Schultz's hypothesis is
that high in the Earth's atmosphere, this meteor did not explode apart as would be expected and come down more slowly at around 200 miles per hour.
Instead, Prof. Schultz thinks the stoney meteorite was encapsulated in its own shock wave all the way to Peru, hitting with unprecedented force for
such soft and fragile rocky material.
Recently I talked with Prof. Peter Schultz about his December field research that led him to his startling conclusion.
Peter Schultz, Ph.D., Prof. of Geological Sciences specializing in impact cratering, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island: “What we discovered
was that this indeed came in at a very high speed. We had initially wondered: Was this like an object coming in like the space shuttle where it comes
in at a low angle and as it comes in, it decelerates slowly in the atmosphere, gradually reaches terminal speed – kind of like jumping out of an
airplane - and then plops on the ground. That was the going-in model that we had and other people had.
But, when we got there, we looked at the nature of the crater, how widespread the ejecta was of the debris thrown out from the crater and we looked at
the condition of the materials thrown out by the crater. We discovered that this thing had to come in fast. This was an unusual event. And this was
the very first impact crater actually witnessed by humans and recorded by humans that we know of, other than legend and lore.
WHAT KIND OF SPEED ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Our best guess, based on damage to the minerals that we found – my associate, graduate student Scott Harris was responsible for this. Based on those
analyses, we think this was coming in somewhere between 1 and 3 kilometers per second. If you think about this in terms of miles per second, we’re
talking about essentially 2/3s of a mile per second up to around 2 miles per second. So this was coming in at a very high speed.
SO, THIS IS WHERE THE 15,000 TO 17000 MPH COMES IN?
Yes, and that’s the upper limits based on our estimates. It’s corroborated by eyewitness accounts of watching this come through the atmosphere.
It’s eyewitnesses that we interviewed while we were there.
WHAT DID PEOPLE TELL YOU THEY SAW?
They saw this thing brightening in the sky, got brighter and brighter, probably to the brightness of the sun, passed quickly overhead and then slammed
into the ground. Some reports had these people being washed over with dust from debris that was ejected out of the crater.
DID YOU ASK ANYBODY ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY HEARD SOUND WHILE IT WAS IN THE AIR?
Oh, yes, of course. We talked to people about that and we are pulling together a paper in more detail.
WHAT WAS THEIR DESCRIPTION OF THE SOUND?
It ranged from being a whistling sound to a boom.
From what I’ve seen in reports so far, the people took notice. They knew something was coming and they turned to watch.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU THINK SAW IT IN THE AIR AND IMPACT WITH THEIR OWN EYES?
That’s a really good question. I know we were in a nearby town and they saw it in the distance going over the mountains heading towards Carancas.
There were other people living in the Carancas area who saw it and felt it. I would imagine we are dealing with dozens and more. The small town nearby
was not a tiny town. There were many people there and right across the border in Bolivia because this flew right over Bolivia.
WHAT ABOUT THE STORIES THAT ANIMALS DIED AT THE SCENE AFTER THE IMPACT?
I heard the same stories. I don’t know how many were true. I heard there were some stock that were injured.
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GET ANY CHEMICAL ANALYSIS THAT MIGHT CONFIRM THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING LIKE ARSENIC OR SOME OTHER KIND OF TOXIC INGREDIENT THAT
MIGHT HAVE MADE THOSE LOCALS SICK?
The question is whether or not this was an illness induced by the dust? Or was it from the percussion of the impact?
If you have ever been very close to a sonic boom, you can feel how it reverberates in your chest. That’s probably what happened here. This does not
belittle people who were feeling ill, but I don’t think we have to attribute this to arsenic or anything unusual delivered from space.