We reported on Monday that a meteor, thought possibly to be a chunk of an Earth-passing asteroid, was the cause of a 40-foot crater outside the international airport in the Nicaraguan capital.
But astronomers and NASA scientists are now casting doubt on that possibility. The biggest mystery is that no one so far has reported seeing a flash of light in the sky that would be expected to accompany such a meteor strike.
“While a meteoritic origin for this crater cannot be ruled out with absolute certainty, the information available at this time suggests that some other cause is responsible for its creation,” NASA’s blog concludes.
“Some Managua residents reported hearing a loud boom on Saturday, which would be consistent with a meteorite impact. But other details warrant a healthy dose of skepticism, said Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
” ‘Something that produced a crater this big should have also produced an incredibly bright fireball in the night sky,’ Cooke said. ‘And no one reports a fireball, even though it was near midnight under scattered clouds.’ ”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Wilfried Strauch, an adviser to Nicaragua’s Institute of Territorial Studies, or Ineter, who concluded that it’s “very strange that no one reported a streak of light.
“We have to ask if anyone has a photo or something,” he said.
It also appears that a meteor landing in Nicaragua could not have come from asteroid 2014 RC, also nicknamed “Pitbull,” as first thought. National Geographic writes:
“Some Nicaraguan astronomers quoted in early news reports attributed the blast to a chip off a weekend asteroid flyby.
“But outside meteorite experts later downplayed links to the small asteroid, dubbed 2014 RC, which passed harmlessly by Earth over the weekend. About the size of a house, 2014 RC passed within 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) of our planet on Sunday.
” ‘Information is limited, but the miss distance of 2014 RC actually precludes any related meteorite impact’ at the Managua crater, says MIT asteroid expert Richard Binzel, by email.”
JPL’s Asteroid Watch concurs: