Latvian experts say meteorite crater was hoax (Update)

Oct 26, 2009

(AP) -- Scientists investigating a large crater initially believed to have been caused by a meteorite said a closer analysis Monday revealed it was a hoax.

Experts in the Baltic country rushed to the site after reports that a metorite-like object had crashed late Sunday in the Mazsalaca region near the Estonian border.

"This is not a real crater. It is artificial," Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center, said after inspecting the site on Monday.

Earlier Uldis had said his first impression late Sunday was that the 27-foot (nine-meter) wide and nine foot (three-meter) deep crater had been caused by a . He said there was smoke coming out of the hole when he arrived.

Uldis and other experts who examined the hole in daylight on Monday said it was too tidy to have been caused by a meteorite.

"It's artificial, dug by shovel," said Girts Stinkulis, a geologist at the University of Latvia.

Dainis Ozols, a nature conservationist, said he believes someone dug the hole and tried to make it look like a meteorite crater by burning some pyrotechnic compound at the bottom. He added he would analyze some samples taken from the site.

Sigita Pildava, a spokeswoman for the State Police, said it wasn't immediately clear whether police would open an investigation into the hoax.

Inga Vetere of the Fire and Rescue Service said they received a call about the alleged meteorite on Sunday evening from an eyewitness. She said a military unit was dispatched to the site and found that radiation levels were normal.

Experts outside Latvia said it would be unusual for such a large meteorite to hit the Earth. The planet is constantly bombarded with objects from , but most burn up in the atmosphere and never reach the surface.

In 2007, a meteorite crashed near Lake Titicaca in Peru, causing a crater about 40 feet (12 meters) wide and 15 feet (five meters) deep.

Asta Pellinen-Wannberg, a meteorite expert at the Swedish Institute of Space Research, said she didn't know the details of the Latvian incident, but that a rock would have to be at least three feet (one meter) in diameter to create a hole that size.

Henning Haack, a lecturer at Copenhagen University's Geological Museum, said when it comes to alleged meteorite crashes, "there always is a pretty large margin of error."

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: New Horizons spacecraft experiences anomaly

Related Stories

Meteorite hits on Earth: There may be a recount

Nov 25, 2008

Meteorite craters might not be as rare as we think. A University of Alberta researcher has found a tool that could reveal possibly hundreds of undiscovered craters across Canada and around the world.

Finding a meteorite's final resting place

Nov 27, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Alberta researcher Chris Herd doesn't want people craning their necks, worrying about giant rocks falling from space. But he's unleashed new technology that could prove meteorite ...

Drilling set at Chesapeake Bay meteor site

Jul 19, 2005

Scientists will drill more than a mile under Chesapeake Bay this fall to study a 35-million-year-old meteorite impact, the Baltimore Sun reported Monday.

Recommended for you

Uranus' moon Titania

5 hours ago

Like all of the Solar Systems' gas giants, Uranus has an extensive system of moons. In fact, astronomers can now account for 27 moons in orbit around Uranus. Of these, none are greater in size, mass, or surface ...

Image: Europa's blood-red scars

5 hours ago

Jupiter's moon Europa is a bizarre place. There is something undeniably biological about this image, sent back by NASA's Galileo spacecraft – the moon is scarred by deep red gashes, resembling the vibrant ...

A giant Pac-Man to gobble up space debris

6 hours ago

The Clean Space One Project has passed a milestone. The space cleanup satellite will deploy a conical net to capture the small SwissCube satellite before destroying it in the atmosphere. It's one of the solutions ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.