Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness'

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Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' Hill 9/18/07 10:44 AM
Text of an article from Guardian unlimited:


Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
Tuesday September 18, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The meteorite impact crater high in the Peruvian Andes

The meteorite impact crater high in the Peruvian Andes is said to be emitting noxious fumes. Photograph: EPA

A meteorite has struck a remote part of Peru and carved a large crater that is emitting noxious odours and making villagers ill, according to local press reports.

A fireball streaked across the Andean sky late on Saturday night and crashed into a field near Carancas, a sparsely populated highland wilderness near Lake Titicaca on the border with Bolivia, witnesses said.

The orange streak and loud bang were initially thought to be a plane crashing. When farmers went to investigate, however, they found a crater at least 10m wide and 5m deep, but no sign of wreckage.

The soil around the hole appeared to be scorched and there was a "strange odour", a local health department official, Jorge López, told Peru's RPP radio.

Later the farmers complained of headaches and vomiting. Police who went to investigate the crater were also stricken with nausea, prompting authorities to dispatch a medical team that reached the site today.

"The odour is strong and it's affecting nearby communities. There are 500 families close by and they have had symptoms of nausea, vomiting, digestive problems and general sickness," said Mr López.

At least 12 people were treated in addition to seven police officers who required oxygen masks and rehydration.

The farmers expressed fears that what appeared to be chunks of lead and silver around the site could contaminate the soil.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Modesto Montoya, told the state press agency that a fallen meteorite did not present any danger unless it hit some structure on impact.

"None of the meteorites that fall in Peru and make perforations of varied sizes are harmful for people, unless they fall on a house," he said. Another meteorite fell to Earth in Arequipa province in June.

I suspect the crater was carved into an area of underground hot springs, and that the gas is mostly hydrogen sulphide. But further investigation is definitely in order.
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Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' syzygy 9/18/07 10:52 AM
very interesting! thanks for post!
on the photo a plain area can be seen around the crater.
are you sure it is the best "general region" for the mark? (maybe 20kms south?)
have gone for some aerial...!


Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene where the meteorite had left a crater 30m wide and 6m deep, said local official Marco Limache.

"Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned," he said.


Scientists have since been sent to the village of Caranca , located in a remote region of Peru near the border of Bolivia, where they will gather samples of what is believed to be a meteorite. The samples will be taken for analysis in Peru's capital of Lima.


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Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' Hill 9/18/07 11:11 AM

are you sure it is the best "general region" for the mark? (maybe 20kms south?)

Nope. It is just to point out the part of the world really. If you find anything more precise, add it to the thread. I'm sure it's not long before we have better information. I have several Google searches set up for it now. If it amounts to anything, I'll transfer the thread it to N&G.
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Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' syzygy 9/18/07 11:20 AM
have found that village Caranca in an article (my 2nd quotation) but it does not seem to be "our" Caranca being far from the border mentioned...
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' Hill 9/18/07 3:31 PM
I think the name was misprinted; we are looking for Carangas - which I still have not found.


This is a good zoomable map. Even so I can find nothing of Carangas, Carancas, or anything similar.
Peru map
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' danescombe 9/18/07 4:34 PM
I could not find the town mentioned in all the international news reports

The nearest name i found near Lake T and in Puno Province is Capachica [ 15°38'22.34"S 69°50'12.34"W ]

It just goes to show how the news orgs play ' follow the leader ' !!
Danescombe, whose real life name was Dave, joined the Google Earth Community Forum in November 2005 and quickly became a regular in the Fun & Games Forum. In August 2007, he became a moderator. Sadly, on March 4, 2009, he passed away following complications from surgery. He was 44 years old. Our entire Community mourns his loss.
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' Hill 9/18/07 7:13 PM
Chiarcagua , found on the MSN Encarta map pretty well fits the bill for location and the spelling is close enough to the ones in the news reports. I'll adjust the placemark in the initial post to place it.

It appears to be near a lake bed in an area where the water table is close to the surface. There's a good chance there could be hot springs there.

EDIT: More recent information puts the likely crater back closer to the original description. I've edited the original post placemark to a polygon covering probable area of the crater.

EDIT: Carancas found in a database, so the location of the placemark in the initial post has been moved again. I'm so
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' syzygy 9/18/07 11:38 PM
RSOE HAVARIA Alert Map ( KMZ Network Link ) (from THIS post by HunNomad) reports:
Cosmic event, remote village, located in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.
well Desaguadero is easy to find at 16°34'4.95"S, 69° 1'42.03"W
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' syzygy 9/19/07 12:33 AM
sure it is Carancas we search:


more pics and articles:
The Advertiser
The Signs of the Times News
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' Hill 9/19/07 10:18 PM
There is a BBC report HERE along with a video report. Still no closer to a definite location.

The latest information HERE and HERE states that scientists have definitely confirmed the object was a chondrite, a type of meteor, and that medical authorities are still studying the illness.
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' danescombe 9/19/07 11:52 PM

A specimen of the NWA 869 chondrite (type L4-6), showing chondrules and metal flakes

Chondrites are stony meteorites that have not been modified due to melting or differentiation of the parent body. They formed when various types of dust and small grains that were present in the early solar system accreted to form primitive asteroids...... REST OF WIKI ENTRY
Re: Peru meteorite crash 'causes mystery illness' tekgergedan 9/21/07 7:06 AM
I think the name is correct but the articles contain confusing wrongful informations.

It is a small village which may not exist in maps.

Here are more detailed news of the events before those that are mentioned much:

The bbc image here is more clear which means it is far away from Desaguadero, not too close:

But the movie here,23599,22442220-401,00.html
says it is an open land to the lake. Tilting and rotating around gives a belief that it is around the attached placemarks. Watch the mountains and the open horizon; they fit.
near Peru meteorite crash (off topic) syzygy 9/21/07 8:10 AM
good work! we converge! thanks!
it seems there are water filled pits all around already... any ideas what geological features are they? some of them looks artificial.
...and whadda heck are these...!? 16°29'27.85"S, 69° 9'12.03"W and west alongside the road???

EDIT: placemark has been moved to "EarthBrowsing" in a NEW TOPIC
Re: near Peru meteorite crash Hill 9/21/07 10:23 AM
Good find on the area Tek and g. This area has the same characteristics as the area I proposed much further south - but is much closer to the Bolivian town of Desaguadero. These areas appear to be old lake bed, or at least areas with very high water tables. And they have many semi-circular depressions similar to the crater. It looks like any time you dig down more than a few meters, you will strike water.

Questions remaining...

1. Did a meteor cause the crater in this case? There was some meteoric material supposedly found at this location - but was its origin really from the pit?

2. Did the water boil for a few minutes? Was the heat caused by the meteor strike? Meteorites found shortly after they fall often have frost coatings. While the surface heats during entry, that ablates and the core of the meteorite still maintains some of the cold of deep space. Could frictional heating of the crater formation heat water that much? I doubt it. The water is not boiling now - there is no detailed information on its current temperature. My first thoughts were that perhaps the meteor struck a geothermal source, but I have no idea about geothermal features in that area. There is a mountain to the north that the GE Geographic Features layer has 5 labels on that certainly looks like an old eroded volcanic cone and could be a source of geothermal features. But a geothermal source would not likely stop being hot after a short time.

3. Was the illness real or psychosomatic? Latest reports show no evidence of illness. If the crater formed suddenly and subterranean gasses were released (hydrogen sulphide is found in geothermal areas and is a product of lake bottom sediments) they could make some people feel ill if gas concentration was great enough. The area is over 12,000 feet in altitude and perhaps human physiology is more sensitive to such things at that altitude.

4. Are some people hoping for some publicity and trying to attract tourists? I'm just sayin...

I guess we'll have to wait for further developments.

EDIT: And here are a few. Read the latest article from the Los Angeles Times HERE. From the article:

With the danger seemingly past, some here are thinking big: Why not make the whole deal a tourist site, a small museum and side trip for the many visitors headed to Lake Titicaca and Bolivia?

"Now that various experts from Japan and other countries have assured us there is nothing bad, we have decided this belongs to us," said Benito Mosaja Pari, 56, who called himself the village lieutenant governor.

"We're going to dig it out. The scientists tell us this was part of a world that fell apart. It has some value.

"And now it's ours."

Re: near Peru meteorite crash Hill 9/21/07 10:13 PM
An on-line National Geographic article HERE is the most informative yet and answers most of my questions.

1. Was it really even a meteorite?

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.
The samples she reviewed had smooth, eroded edges, Macedo added.
"As the rock enters the atmosphere, it gets smoothed out," she said.
The samples also had a significant amount of magnetic material "characteristic of meteorites," she said.
"The samples stick to the magnet," Ishitsuka, the geologist, confirmed. "That shows that there is iron present."...
osé 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.

2. Did the water boil for a few minutes? Was the heat caused by the meteor strike?

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 José Ishitsuka, a geologist at the Peruvian Geophysics Institute, who analyzed the object.

3. Was the illness real or psychosomatic? Latest reports show no evidence of illness. See #2 above. It was probably real at least for some and may have been due to arsenic poisoning from compounds in the soil.

And there were seismic waves produced equivalent to a magnitude1.5 earthquake.

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.

Re: near Peru meteorite crash (off topic) tekgergedan 9/22/07 7:53 AM
If it was an underground explosion, would its shape like this? And nobody tells anything about rocks and particles around.

I think, it was a meteorite. The soil is soft as syz reminded. A few meters beneath comes the water. It looks like a very old river(s) bed from the sattelites which collapses everywhere. The very big rocks cannot come there with ordinary rivers but by strong flood events in non-documented times. So, the earth surface is only a soft coverage of a mixture of mud and big rocks.

So the thing must be burried in the mud below. As it is in the mud in the soil, the heat must have been absorbed faster than expected -at least it does not reach at the surface anymore.

Or, truely, it looks like a work of a construction machine too. But I don't think there is a machine of that size there.

Also, the said size has been expanded upto 5 x 30 meters. It looks even larger. Or the cameramen should use normal lenses without any extras on these events. They don't inform about the soil structure, either.
Re: near Peru meteorite crash Hill 9/22/07 9:48 AM

size has been expanded upto 5 x 30 meters. It looks even larger.

I think the size quoted in the National Geographic article is probably more realistic, since it has now been actually measured by investigators.


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

Re: near Peru meteorite crash Hill 9/24/07 8:18 PM
It looks like we can wrap this up for now. Nothing has appeared recently and the National Geographic article seems to answer all of the questions initially raised.
What we now know:
1) It was a meteor of the type called a chondrite.
2) The size of the hole is smaller than first reported though not the sort of thing you would want in your home.
3) There were seismic tremors produced equal to a 1.5 earthquake.
4) Some people, but not as many as the 200 initially reported, were sickened by gas given off from the crater. The impact was large enough to produce heat (most meteorites that have been found shortly after they landed were cold to the touch). The heat may have caused short-term boiling of ground water in a soil well-known for having arsenic in it. The gas is what made people feel sick.
5) A GEC poster by the name of viajero made only one post in February, 2007. But the post was:

Peru - all placenames / todo los pueblos (105,000)
All villages and towns in Peru in a single 2.6 mb KMZ from the 1998 Digital Peru project organized by Department. Based on cleaned up VMAP1 (NIMA) data. For best results zoom way in.

In those 105,000 placenames is the town of Carancas . So finally we have the location of the town. It lies at ( -16.6438°, -69.0546° ) about midway between two guesses. Unfortunately it is in lower resolution than much of the area. Maybe next time the imagery around Lake Titicaca is updated, we can see the new area housing the anticipated tourist attraction.


Andina, Peru's official government news agency reported yesterday that Marco Limachi, a district authority in Puno, Peru stated that the large crater would be turned into a tourist attraction. Limachi told Peru's Andina News Agency that the region would take advantage of the attention the crater has attracted.

It was reported that despite the fact that the crater was currently fenced off with wires, within the next few days the Municipality of Desaguadero would roof the area and permit access to where the meteorite had landed.

Limchi stated, "Through different means of communication, we want to sell the crater's image as a tourist attraction so that the townspeople can benefit (from this event)."

In addition, Porfirio Aguilar, the director of tourism in Puno, Peru stated that he would get together with businessmen, Peru's authorities and Bolivia's authorities to promote tourism in the area.


I'll once again change the placemark in the initial post to show the true location of Carancas.

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Re: near Peru meteorite crash (off topic) syzygy 9/25/07 5:17 AM
sorry, just have realised that the last 5replies were replies to my off topic question above...
i have moved placemark to "EarthBrowsing" in a NEW TOPIC.
thanks Hill all your searchwork on the crash site!
pretty cool GE-investigation you have provided!
hope we can see some aerial soon! (:
Peruvian meteorite initial scientific reports Hill 9/28/07 11:05 PM
Two initial reports are now posted. Links to them are below:

Mysteries remain over Peru meteorite impact

The Carancas Meteorite Fall, 15 September 2007

There is a lot of new information, maps and images in both.

The meteorite came from the north-northeast and was bright enough to be seen in the middle of the day by residents of the city of Desaguadero (Illustration courtesy Lionel Jackson/Geological Survey of Canada)
New Pictures - and it's for sale Hill 10/6/07 8:12 PM
Here's a link to Meteoriteguy's website. It has some closer pictures of the crater and a picture of the smoke trail left by the meteor as it passed through the atmosphere.

Re: New Pictures - and it's for sale Hill 11/30/07 2:49 PM
Here is a photo of one of the Canancas meteorite fragments that is for sale.


4.536g = $535 about 15% Rich, Black Fusion Crust
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New information and a new theory. Hill 3/12/08 9:24 AM

Planetary geologists had thought that stony meteorites would be destroyed when they passed through Earth’s atmosphere. This one struck ground near Carancas, Peru, at about 15,000 miles per hour. Brown University geologists have advanced a new theory that would upend current thinking about stony meteorites.

Image: Peter Schultz, Brown University

You can read the complete article in a press release from Brown University here.

In time the link may disappear so here is the complete article:


PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — It made news around the world: On Sept. 15, 2007, an object hurtled through the sky and crashed into the Peruvian countryside. Scientists dispatched to the site near the village of Carancas found a gaping hole in the ground.

Peter Schultz, professor of geological sciences at Brown University and an expert in extraterrestrial impacts, went to Peru to learn more. For the first time, he will present findings from his travels at the 39th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas, in a talk scheduled for 2 p.m. on March 11, 2008. Brown graduate student Robert “Scott” Harris collaborated on the research, joined by Jose Ishitsuka, a Peruvian astrophysicist, and Gonzalo Tancredi, an astronomer from Uruguay.

What Schultz and his team found is surprising. The object that slammed into a dry riverbed in Peru was a meteorite, and it left a 49-foot-wide crater. Soil ejected from the point of impact was found nearly four football fields away. When Schultz’s team analyzed the soil where the fireball hit, he found “planar deformation features,” or fractured lines in sand grains found in the ground. Along with evidence of debris strewn over a wide area, the shattered sand grains told Schultz that the meteorite had maintained a high rate of speed as it shot through the atmosphere. Scientists think it was traveling at roughly 15,000 miles per hour at the moment of impact.

“Normally with a small object like this, the atmosphere slows it down, and it becomes the equivalent of a bowling ball dropping into the ground,” Schultz said. “It would make a hole in the ground, like a pit, but not a crater. But this meteorite kept on going at a speed about 40 to 50 times faster than it should have been going.”

Scientists have determined the Carancas fireball was a stony meteorite – a fragile type long thought to be ripped into pieces as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and then leaves little more than a whisper of its journey.

Yet the stony meteorite that struck Peru survived its passage mostly intact before impact.

“This just isn’t what we expected,” Schultz said. “It was to the point that many thought this was fake. It was completely inconsistent with our understanding how stony meteorites act.”

Schultz said that typically fragments from meteorites shoot off in all directions as the object speeds to Earth. But he believes that fragments from the Carancas meteorite may have stayed within the fast-moving fireball until impact. How that happened, Schultz thinks, is due to the meteorite’s high speed. At that velocity, the fragments could not escape past the “shock-wave” barrier accompanying the meteorite and instead “reconstituted themselves into another shape,” he said.

That new shape may have made the meteorite more aerodynamic – imagine a football passing through air versus a cinderblock – meaning it encountered less friction as it sped toward Earth, hitting the surface as one large chunk.

“It became very streamlined and so it penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere more efficiently,” Schultz said.

Schultz’s theory could upend the conventional wisdom that all small, stony meteorites disintegrate before striking Earth. If correct, it could change the thinking about the size and type of extraterrestrial objects that have bombarded the Earth for eons and could strike our planet next.

“You just wonder how many other lakes and ponds were created by a stony meteorite, but we just don’t know about them because when these things hit the surface they just completely pulverize and then they weather,” said Schultz, director of the Northeast Planetary Data Center and the NASA/Rhode Island University Space Grant Consortium.

Schultz’s research could have implications for Mars, where craters have been discovered in recent missions. “They could have come from anything,” he said. “It would be interesting to study these small craters and see what produced them. Perhaps they also will defy our understanding.”