This meteorite fell on September 15 in a very remote area of Peru, near the community of Carancas, 800 miles from Lima. Claims rose of 200 locals falling ill after visiting the site (they saw the thing on the sky and heard it as well, that's why they were searching for it). Discussion started on many forums about
1 can this be a meteorite crater at all?
2 if yes, what type of meteorite was it?
3 can it really make people ill?
Part of a BBC article:
"Increasingly we think that people witnessed a fireball, which are not uncommon, went off to investigate and found a lake of sedimentary deposit, which may be full of smelly, methane rich organic matter," said Dr Caroline Smith, a meteorite expert at the London-based Natural History Museum. "This has been mistaken for a crater."
However, it's not so easy to tell without actually being there.
After some scientists visiting the site and taking samples there are some answers. It is said that the water in the crater was boiling and sending a column of steam into the sky as the first people arrived at the scene (who were searching for it after hearing and seeing the thing in the sky). The National Geographic writes:
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.
As for the meteorite itself:
"Based on the first-hand reports, the impact and the samples, this is a meteorite," Macedo, of INGEMMET, said.
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.
So it was a non-metallic type meteorite... or was it?
Peru's La Republica newspaper reported today that Ronald Woodman, director of Peru's Geophysical Institute, stated that the meteorite which landed in Puno on Saturday had high levels of iron.
In addition, Woodman stated that astrophysicist José Ishitsuka of Peru's Geophysics Institute, had collected samples of the meteorite and had confirmed that it contained a high degree of iron.
"The specialist José Ishitsuka has confirmed, after analyzing pieces of the object, that it is a meteorite with a high degree of iron and (contains) magnetic properties, characteristic of these objects," explained Woodman.
It was reported that Ishitsuka retrieved a 3-inch magnetic fragment of the meteorite and has based his conclusion after studying its properties.
Well, probably it's too early to tell. But at least there are fragments found so it will be possible to study it further. Also it's likely now that it's
-not containing an alien species
-not a fallen American spy satellite
-not a strayed SCUD missile
as some people hinted.
The following video contains some closer shots of the crater itself:
Less confusing is the freshly available
initial technical report about the meteorite. Just one not-so-surprising thing: they found that reports (that appeared in every media) of "200 people fell ill" were way off...