Thursday, September 20, 2007


Peruvian astronomers said Thursday that evidence shows a meteorite crashed near Lake Titicaca over the weekend, leaving an elliptical crater and magnetic rock fragments in an impact powerful enough to register on seismic charts.

As other astronomers learned more details, they too said it appears likely that a legitimate meteorite hit Earth on Saturday - an rare occurence. ... Other details don't add up, they said - such as witness accounts of water in the muddy crater boiling for 10 minutes from the heat. Meteorites are actually cold when they hit Earth, astronomists say, since their outer layers burn up and fall away before impact.

Experts also puzzled over claims that 200 local residents were sickened by fumes from the crater. Doctors who examined them found no evidence of illness related to the meteorite, and one suggested a psychosomatic reaction to the sight and sound of the plunging meteor.
... Doctors told an Associated Press Television News cameraman at the site that they had found no sign of radioactive contamination among families living nearby. But they said they had taken samples of blood, urine and hair to analyze.

Peasants living near the crater said they had smelled a sulfurous odor for at least an hour after the meteorite struck and that it had provoked upset stomachs and headaches. But Ishitsuka said he doubts reports of a sulfurous smell.

Meteor expert Ursula Marvin said that if people were sickened, "it wouldn't be the meteorite itself, but the dust it raises."

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