Space Disease in Peru?

Last Thursday, September 20th, 2007 the occupants of a small isolated village in southern Peru, not far from the Bolivian border, reported hearing a loud explosion. The locals rushed in the direction of the sound and found that a large crater had formed in the ground close to Lake Titicaca. The crater, 41 feet in diameter and 16 feet deep, was filled with water. Soon after the explosion, many of the villagers reported symptoms such as headaches and nausea. More than 48 hours later, there is no definite conclusion at to what took place in Peru. The many speculations on the matter range from the more likely scenario of a small meteorite impact to full blown conspiracy theories involving a top secret U.S. satellite with a radioactive power source.

Our planet is constantly being bombarded by objects from outer space. In fact, astronomers estimate the on a typical day, about 100 tons of dust and space-based material enters Earth’s atmosphere. There are also many small meteors that crash into the atmosphere, although most of them burn in the process and never reach the ground. However, from time to time, larger, metallic objects do reach the ground, creating meteorite craters.

The supposed meteorite impact in Peru drew the attention of the media mostly because of the reported mysterious disease among the local people following the explosion. It is common for toxic fumes to rise from an impact crater. Actually, experts who have already started to investigate the incident say that it is more likely the toxic fumes originated in the ground (perhaps as a result of the heat caused by the meteorite’s impact). 

The possibility that the crater was caused by a crashed top secret satellite with a radioactive power source seems highly unlikely, seeing as at this stage no radiation has been detected by the scientists who arrived at the remote location. Other possible explanations, such as the outburst of a natural geyser, seem to have been ruled out by the seismic measurements. These measurements indicate that around the time of the event, a 1.5 magnitude earthquake took place in the area, an occurrence more likely to have been caused by an impact. 

Image: The water-filled crater close to the Peruvian-Bolivian border (Credit: ANDINA – Agencia Peruana de Noticias).

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