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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Sep > Sep 25

Closure On Peruvian Meteor Story?

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 10:43:30 -0400
Archived: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 10:43:30 -0400
Subject: Closure On Peruvian Meteor Story? 

Source: National Geographic - Washington, DC, USA


September 21, 2007

[Links at site]

Meteor Crash In Peru Caused Mysterious Illness

Jose Orozco in Caracas, Venezuela
for National Geographic News

An object that struck the high plains of Peru on Saturday,
causing a mysterious illness among local residents, was a rare
kind of meteorite, scientists announced today.

A team of Peruvian researchers confirmed the origins of the
object, which crashed near Lake Titicaca, after taking samples
to a lab in the capital city of Lima (see Peru map).

Nearby residents who visited the impact crater complained of
headaches and nausea, spurring speculation that the explosion
was a subterranean geyser eruption or a release of noxious gas
from decayed matter underground.

But the illness was the result of inhaling arsenic fumes,
according to Luisa Macedo, a researcher for Peru's Mining,
Metallurgy, and Geology Institute (INGEMMET), who visited the
crash site.

The meteorite created the gases when the object's hot surface
met an underground water supply tainted with arsenic, the
scientists said.

Numerous arsenic deposits have been found in the subsoils of
southern Peru, explained Modesto Montoya, a nuclear physicist
who collaborated with the team. The naturally formed deposits
contaminate local drinking water.

"If the meteorite arrives incandescent and at a high temperature
because of friction in the atmosphere, hitting water can create
a column of steam," added Jos=E9 Ishitsuka, an astronomer at the
Peruvian Geophysics Institute, who analyzed the object.

By Wednesday, according to Macedo, all 30 residents who felt ill
reported feeling better.

"People Were Extremely Scared"

Locals described the meteorite as a bright, fiery ball with a
smoke trail. The sound and smell rattled residents to the point
that they feared for their lives, Ishitsuka said.

The meteorite's impact sent debris flying up to 820 feet (250
meters) away, with some material landing on the roof of the
nearest home 390 feet (120 meters) from the crater, Ishitsuka

"Imagine the magnitude of the impact," he said. "People were
extremely scared. It was a psychological thing."

The meteorite's crash also caused minor tremors, shaking locals
physically and emotionally.

"They were in the epicenter of a small earthquake," Montoya, the
nuclear physicist, said.

The resulting crater resembles a muddy pond measuring 42 feet
(13 meters) wide and 10 feet (3 meters) deep.

Solving the Mystery

Even as meteorite samples arrived in Lima Thursday for testing,
Peruvian scientists seemed to unanimously agree that it was a
meteorite that had struck their territory.

"Based on the first-hand reports, the impact and the samples,
this is a meteorite," Macedo, of INGEMMET, said.

Tests revealed no unusual radiation at the site, though its
absence didn't rule out a meteorite crash.

"Everything has radioactivity, even underground rocks," Montoya
said. "But nothing out of the ordinary was found."

Preliminary analysis by Macedo's institute revealed no metal
fragments, indicating a rare rock meteorite. Metal stands up
better to the heat created as objects enter Earth's atmosphere,
which is why most meteorites are metallic.

(See related news photo: "Mysterious Space Object Crashes Into
House" [January 5, 2007].)

The samples she reviewed had smooth, eroded edges, Macedo added.

"As the rock enters the atmosphere, it gets smoothed out," she

The samples also had a significant amount of magnetic material
"characteristic of meteorites," she said.

"The samples stick to the magnet," Ishitsuka, the astronomer,
confirmed. "That shows that there is iron present."

Water samples at the crater proved normal, but the color and
composition of soil were "unusual" for the area, Macedo noted.

Jos=E9 Machare, a geoscience adviser at INGEMMET, said x-ray tests
conducted on the samples earlier today further confirmed the
object's celestial origins.

He said the group's findings put to rest earlier theories that
the object was a piece of space junk or that the crater had
formed by an underground explosion.

"It's a rocky fragment," Machare said, "and rocks that fall from
the sky can only be meteorites."

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