Originally published September 28 2014
Unexpected meteorite crash in Nicaragua highlights necessity of space program to protect from imminent danger
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) A meteorite slammed into Earth on the outskirts of Nicaragua's capital Managua on September 7, the government reported, raising new concerns that human civilization remains unprepared for the potential of catastrophic space impacts.
The impact and resulting explosion, which were felt throughout the city of 1.2 million, left a crater 40 feet across and 16 feet deep.
"I was sitting on my porch and I saw nothing. Then all of a sudden I heard a large blast," Managua resident Jorge Santamaria said to The New York Times. "We thought it was a bomb because we felt an expansive wave."
City residents witnessed the explosionFew residents saw the object streaking through the sky, but many reported seeing sand, dust and liquid exploding into the air, and a smell of burning.
The meteorite struck in a wooded area at the city's outskirts, near the airport.
"We need to celebrate the fact that it fell in an area where, thank God, it didn't cause any danger to the population," said Jose Millan, of the Nicaraguan Institute of Earth Studies (INETER).
Scientists are still investigating the crater and have been unable to determine the composition of the meteorite or find any remnants of it. However, they are convinced that the crater was caused by a meteorite rather than seismic or human activity.
"All the evidence that we've confirmed on-site corresponds exactly with a meteorite and not with any other type of event," Millan said.
As a highly seismically active nation, Nicaragua is well equipped with equipment for monitoring earthquakes and volcanic activity.
"We are convinced that this was a meteorite," said Wilfredo Strauss of INETER. "We have seen the crater from the impact. You can see two waves on the seismic equipment... First, a small seismic wave when the meteorite hit Earth, and then another stronger one which is the impact of the sound."
Nicaragua said it would be requesting assistance from international scientists to investigate the impact further.
Earth unprepared for asteroid impactsNicaraguan authorities believe that the meteorite came from a piece that broke off the asteroid 2014 RC, nicknamed "Pitbull," that was projected to pass close to the earth that very day. NASA had detected the asteroid only the week before and had anticipated that it might eject debris that could fall to Earth.
The meteorite "appears to have come off an asteroid that was passing close to Earth," Nicaraguan First Lady and government spokesperson Rosario Murillo said.
NASA's last-minute detection of the asteroid, combined with the Nicaraguan impact, has reignited concerns that Earth is unprepared for the possibility of a more serious asteroid collision. NASA monitors the progress of more than 11,000 asteroids that are expected to come close enough to Earth to pose a risk of impact, but it is unknown how many potentially dangerous asteroids remain untracked.
The Nicaraguan impact came less than two years after a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013, injuring more than 1,000 people. The Chelyabinsk meteor had not been detected by any scientists or space programs prior to its explosion.
"The possible meteorite impact in Nicaragua, linked with the asteroid 2014 RC which flew by Earth raises some interesting questions," said astronomer Dr. Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University in England.
"Although the impact occurred roughly 12 hours before the asteroid passed Earth, that part of the planet was facing in the right direction for it to have been a fragment associated with it," he said. "If it was an unrelated object, however, then it further demonstrates how we don't really monitor all the potentially dangerous rocks out there."
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