IT’S MY UNDERSTANDING THAT IF THIS WERE ONLY A STONY METEORITE – SOME SORT OF AGGRAGATE COMING IN AROUND 15,000 MPH – WOULD BE UNPRECEDENTED?
That’s right and why it’s such an interesting thing to study because the models up until this time, except for a couple of models, would suggest
that anything that is stony would have broken apart and through interacting shock waves would have spread out like a pancake and then the meteorites
would simply have fallen to earth. That’s the typical model that we have been working with for awhile.
But there is another model that involves something that is weak and as it comes through the atmosphere, it tends to break apart. This aggregates, and
as it aggregates, it changes shape somewhat. That allows it to get much deeper into the atmosphere and all indications that we have is that this did
not spread out in a pancake, either on the basis of what we saw on the ground, or on the basis of witnesses.
SO, IF WE’VE GOT A LOT OF STONY BOULDERS IN SOME SORT OF AN AGGRAGATE, TIGHT OR LOOSE, COMING IN OUT ATMOSPHERE AT 15,000 OR 16,000 MPH, WHAT WAS
THE IMPACT LIKE ON THE GROUND THAT MADE THAT CRATER?
I can imagine it was pretty profound! I understand there were some seismic events that people did pick up the impact in seismic records. There were
reports of people talking about the extremely loud boom – the shock that must have been generated. So, this would have been a scary event.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT CAME IN SO FAST?
Two things: in the upper atmosphere where this came in, it was probably going much faster. It had to be going perhaps as fast as 10 miles per second
when it entered the atmosphere. So, the issue is: How did it make it all the way through the Earth’s atmosphere without exploding?
And I think the reason was it was weak enough that it broke apart (in upper atmosphere) before it had a chance to explode. As it came through, it
changed its shape a bit and reduced the aerodynamic drag, which allowed it to get much deeper into the atmosphere than it would have normally. But
much of this is still speculation because that’s what we are really trying to find out.
SO UNTIL THIS CARANCAS, PERU, METEORITE, IT WAS NEVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE THAT STONY METEORITES COULD PENETRATE THE ATMOSPHERE WITHOUT EXPLODING BEFORE
THE GROUND ON EARTH?
Basically. Typical terminal speed for iron or stony meteorites is on the order of 200 mph. So, if this had come through the atmosphere that way, then
it would have come down about 200 mph. So, we’re looking at something much faster than that.
IN TERMS OF TNT, WHAT WOULD THE ENERGY IMPACT HAVE BEEN IN YOUR CURRENT HYPOTHESIS?
It was equivalent to a couple of tons of TNT. Meteorites, when they come through the atmosphere, should spread apart and fall to the ground and form
pits with meteorites in them. Carancas did not do that. It appeared to stay together, pierced the atmosphere staying at a very high speed when it
slammed into the Earth. That’s what made it unusual.”