Meteorite or ‘Meteor-Wrong’? Nicaragua Crater Debated

Experts on asteroids are questioning the Nicaraguan government's claim that a 40-foot-wide (12-meter-wide) crater near Managua's international airport and an air force base was caused by a meteorite. "As yet, no eyewitness accounts or imagery have come to light of the fireball flash or debris trail that is typically associated with a meteor of the size required to produce such a crater," NASA said in a statement Monday.

The space agency said the Saturday night blast was definitely "unrelated" to Earth's close encounter with an asteroid known as 2012 RC. "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," Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Micrometeoroid Environment Office, said in a blog posting. Other experts agreed that this might be a "meteor-wrong" — that is, an explosion of terrestrial origin that was wrongly attributed to a meteor strike. Skeptics in Nicaragua noted that the blast occurred near a military facility where explosives are stored.

Image: Nicaraguan crater
A Nicaraguan soldier uses a metal detector to check the area around a 40-foot-wide crater near Managua. German Miranda / AFP - Getty Images



— Alan Boyle